CBI yet to complete Scorpene deal probe

March 16th, 2008 - 9:10 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into alleged irregularities in the 2005 deal for six French Scorpene submarines has failed to make headway even as a three-month deadline set by the Delhi High Court to submit a report on this is about to end. A public suit filed in the Delhi High Court by lawyer Prashant Bhushan has alleged that the Intelligence Bureau (IB), which was initially investigating the matter, did not pass on all its findings to the CBI. The suit also contended there were links between the Scorpene deal and what is termed the Naval War Room leak case.

The high court had pulled up the CBI for its shoddy investigations and directed it to file a report after a fresh preliminary inquiry by March 24.

“Inform us if a First Information Report in this case can be registered or not,” the division bench had said.

“We have been sending requests to several countries to furnish details about bank accounts, telephone records and e-mail exchanges between the French company and an Indian middleman. However, we are yet to receive any response as the requests are not legally binding on the countries,” a CBI source said.

It had been alleged that one of the accused in the Navy War Room leak case, Abhishek Verma, had sent an e-mail to the French manufacturer of the submarine demanding on behalf of a political party four percent commission for brokering the Rs.160 billion deal.

The e-mail is in the IB’s possession, the public suit says.

Various government agencies, including the IB, were involved in investigating the Navy War Room leak. In February 2006 the authorities decided to hand over the case to the CBI for initiating criminal proceedings against the naval officers and civilians allegedly involved in the case.

Retired navy officers Ravi Shankaran and Kulbhushan Parashar, as also Verma, are accused of involvement in the alleged leak of sensitive information from the Navy War Room here.

The leaked data allegedly pertained to the navy’s procurement plans, including its sensitive submarine acquisition programme.

“It is strange that the material recovered by the IB during its year-long surveillance of the accused in the Navy War Room leak was not handed over to the CBI. This would have helped the CBI in investigating the matter,” Prashant Bhushan told IANS.

The CBI is yet to zero in on prime accused Shankaran, who is believed to be hiding in Europe. Shankaran is a nephew of former Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash.

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