CBI quizzes Fernandes in Barak missile deal

May 20th, 2008 - 12:15 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has quizzed former defence minister George Fernandes twice this month in connection with alleged irregularities in the purchase of Israeli Barak missiles in 2000. The CBI had been planning to summon Fernandes for long, but could not due to his poor health, official sources said.

“Finally, Fernandes was questioned twice, at his home,” a CBI official said.

“Fernandes, being the then defence minister, was an important person to know many facts. He was asked as to why the opinion of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) was overruled,” the official added.

The CBI also booked Fernandes’ confidante Jaya Jaitley, and then Samata Party treasurer R.K. Jain for alleged irregularities in the deal, which was sealed during the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime.

The $100 million deal came under the scanner after it was alleged that Fernandes had overruled, at the behest of arms agent Suresh Nanda, the opinion of DRDO that it could develop a system similar to Barak.

The CBI has also accused Nanda, the son of former Indian Navy chief Admiral S.M. Nanda, of receiving Rs.4 million in kickbacks after the deal was signed.

According to the CBI, former naval chief Sushil Kumar had colluded with the other accused to misrepresent facts and had bypassed the usual channels to directly recommend to Fernandes the import of six Barak AMD (anti-missile defence) systems.

Even as the CBI proceeds with the case, India has signed a deal with Israel to develop a second-generation version of the Barak.

The missile has been installed on frontline Indian Navy ships like the aircraft carrier INS Viraat and has performed creditably, naval officers say.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony witnessed the efficiency of the Barak during his ‘Day at Sea’ with the Indian Navy last January when it successfully intercepted an incoming ‘enemy’ missile.

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