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No headway in Rs 16,000 cr submarine scam probe
Sumir Kaul in New Delhi
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March 16, 2008 15:37 IST

The probe into the allegations of kickbacks involved in Rs 16,000 crore Scorpene Submarine deal has made no headway with almost all evidence seem to have vanished due to delay in handing over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The CBI has to submit a report before the Delhi High Court by March 24 and the agency is still groping in dark with no evidence coming its way.

The high court on December 20 last year had asked CBI to conduct a fresh preliminary enquiry into the allegations of kickbacks in the deal levelled in a public interest litigation.

However, the CBI has been sending demi-official requests to various countries about certain bank details, telephone records and exchange of emails between a French company and its subsidiary in India.

Sources in the agency said none of the countries were giving any replies as the demi-official letters had no legal binding for them to do so. The CBI could not send a formal request as otherwise the agency would have to register a regular case for the same.

The agency, which has been receiving flak from the court over its shoddy investigations into the case, have now been calling some former Naval officers and others associated with the case trying to understand the link between the Naval war room leak case and the Scorpene deal.

Letters sent to telecom companies in Switzerland [Images], London [Images] and a Gulf country have not yielded to anything as none of the companies were responding, the sources said. The SIM cards of these Telecom companies were found from Delhi-based businessman Abhishek Verma, at present in judicial custody.

The CBI has also written letters to Delhi office of Google, an internet search engine, to verify certain emails purportedly written by Verma to officials in France [Images], the sources said, adding no information was made available so far.

The agency is now caught in a catch-22 situation as the high court has directed the agency to satisfy the bench before closing the case.

"If the inquiry does not disclose the offence then the Investigating officer will file the status report and also the order of the competent officer passed on the basis of report," the court had said in its order.

The CBI sources said the servers of overseas companies had also been re-configured and there was also very little help that the agency could get from the Defence Ministry.

"Now, we are not expected to manufacture evidence when they no longer exist," a senior CBI official said, adding there has been a considerable delay in handing over the probe.

According to the PIL, the Government finalised the Rs 16,000 crore deal with French company, Thales, in October 2005. The petition alleged that there were middlemen involved in the deal which was against government's policy.

It also alleged that four per cent kickbacks were paid in the deal and the government was trying to protect the middlemen who were influential people.

The petition referred to some e-mail messages and telephonic conversations allegedly between Thales officials and the middlemen.

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