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Home > India > News > PTI

CBI questions Fernandes on Barak missile deal

May 19, 2008 19:03 IST
Last Updated: May 19, 2008 20:11 IST

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After more than one and half years of probe into the Rs 1150-crore Barak missile deal with Israel, the Central Bureau of Investigation questioned former Defence Minister George Fernandes [Images] twice recently on alleged irregularities in purchase of the weapons system in the year 2000.

Highly-placed sources in the investigating agency said Fernandes, who was the Defence Minister in the National Democratic Alliance government, was quizzed by a team of CBI officials at his 3-Krishna Menon Marg official residence on two occasions regarding alleged irregularities in the purchase of seven Barak Missile Systems.

He was asked why the deal of purchase of Barak Missile Systems was pushed despite reservations expressed by the then Cabinet Committee on Security and why the advice of the then Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, who had objected to the purchase of the missiles, was not presented before the CCS.

Fernandes is understood to have told the sleuths that he had pressed for the deal at the earliest following a strong recommendation made by the then Naval Chief Admiral Susheel Kumar who is named in CBI's FIR registered in 2006.
However, Fernandes claimed he had forgotten about the reservations expressed by the then Scientific Advisor A P J Abdul Kalam, according to the sources.

Efforts to reach Fernandes for his comments failed.

Besides Fernandes and Kumar, the CBI has named the chief of defunct Samata Party Jaya Jaitely and other officials of Defence Ministry besides noted arms dealer Suresh Nanda in the FIR relating to the case.

The CBI would be questioning Admiral Kumar again. He was earlier quizzed on March four, this year.

Kumar, who retired as Navy chief on December 29, 2001, was questioned about purchasing of the Barak missile systems despite opposition from the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

The formal Navy chief was also asked about middle-man's alleged presence in the house of Fernandes and whether the missiles were purchased from Israel keeping in mind the interest of a few individuals or companies.

The CBI claimed in its FIR that the contract price for purchasing seven Barak systems was about 17 million dollars, higher than the price offered by Israel in early 1996.

"Fernandes wanted the proposals to be initiated from below and he eventually overruled the learned opinion of the then Scientific Advisor to Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) in order to favour Israel Aircraft Industries and others," the CBI alleged.

Kalam, in his capacity as the scientific advisor, had 'strongly opposed' the proposal made in 1999 by Admiral Kumar to import two surface-to-air missiles but Fernandes 'overruled' this view and gave the go-ahead, it charged.

"The then Raksha Mantri (Fernandes) overruled opinion of the then Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister... against import of any missile system and gave a go-ahead to the proposal of Sushil Kumar on June 28, 1999," said the FIR filed before a designated court in New Delhi.

The Defence Ministry put up a note to then Defence Secretary T R Prasad who in turn mentioned that the Cabinet Committee on Security had returned the proposals to acquire precision-guided missiles and it decided to defer the proposals to be considered by the next government.

"Despite this note by the Defence Secretary, Fernandes wrote back on September three, 1999, that installation of Barak system on INS fleet was absolutely essential and therefore, the CCS might be apprised of the urgency of requirement and to seek its approval," the CBI FIR said.

The CBI inquiry has shown that CCS note with DRDO's objections with respect to two of its paragraphs was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security on March two, 2000, and the contract was signed on October 23, 2000 for purchasing seven Barak systems.

The CBI has also questioned UPSC Chairman and former Defence Secretary Subir Datta to ascertain 'certain facts' before it went to question Fernandes.
Datta was asked by the CBI about the note that was put before the Cabinet Committee on Security by Fernandes about the need for procurement of Barak missiles from Israel in which opposition by a section of scientists was not mentioned.

Datta had served in the Defence Ministry during the period when purchases were finalised. He served as Additional Secretary from 1998 to 2000 and later as Secretary, Defence Production and Supplies (2000-02) before being appointed as Defence Secretary (2002-03).

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