Procurement: The Shame Of India


July 31, 2012: India has yet another defense procurement scandal, this time involving shady brokers, leaked military secrets, and all manner of embarrassing, and usually illegal, deals. This time around a notorious broker, conman, and "fixer" (Abhishek Verma) was arrested because he was at the center of a network of active and retired officers and Defense Ministry bureaucrats who arranged for military secrets to be leaked and bribes to be paid. For example, when arrested Verma was seeking to find the right people to bribe to get a European defense manufacturer off a black list (of firms that have been caught bribing Defense Ministry officials to obtain contracts).

During the investigation of Verma some top secret defense documents suddenly showed up in public. One of the more explosive documents was one showing Indian Air Force research and purchasing plans for the rest of the decade. All this made it clear that there was little in the Indian military that was not for sale.

The 44 year old Verma has been running high-value scams since he was a teenager and has been prosecuted several times. But he always gets out and is soon back in business. For too many clever criminals the Indian armed forces is not seen as the defender of India but an opportunity to make a lot of money, by any means available.

For more than a decade many Indians, including government officials, journalists, and citizen activists have been trying to reduce the corruption in the military. Bribes, theft, secrets for sale, and all manner of bad behavior have been going on for decades. Aside from the lost cash, the troops end up with inferior or antiquated weapons and equipment. There's also a lot of embarrassment, when new projects are announced and then, over time, nothing happens because the money never arrived.

Increasingly, corrupt activities have been revealed, often in great detail (as in videos of officials soliciting or accepting bribes) and documented. But prosecutions often go nowhere. If money can't buy acquittal, it can purchase interminable delay.



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