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Barak deal: CBI to question Fernandes

CBI will question the former Defence Minister for his alleged role in the Barak Missile system purchase deal from Israel during NDA rule in 2000.

delhi Updated: Feb 27, 2008 21:28 IST

The CBI will soon question former Defence Minister George Fernandes and former Naval Chief Admiral Susheel Kumar for their alleged role in the Rs. 1150-crore deal to purchase Barak Missile system from Israel during NDA rule in 2000.

CBI sources said Fernandes and Kumar would be questioned either this week or early next week in connection with the probe into deal.

The questioning of Fernandes and Kumar would come close on the heels of the CBI completing questioning arms dealer Suresh Nanda whose passport has been suspended for four weeks. The agency has also approached the Ministry for revocation of his passport.

The CBI, in its FIR, alleged a sum of Rs two crore was paid to Samata Party president Jaya Jaitley, who acted as an 'agent', to clinch the deal to buy seven Barak anti-missile defence systems from state-run Israel Aircraft Industries. Jaitley was then the President of Fernandes' Samata Party.

The CBI alleged former naval chief Kumar colluded with other accused to put up a note to Fernandes to import the Barak systems despite objections from the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Fernandes not only approved the proposal but tried to get it approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security, the agency alleged.

The deal for acquiring the Barak systems and 200 missiles for fitting on naval warships was signed on October 23, 2000 when BJP-led NDA was in power.

The case came to light in 2001 when a sting operation was carried out by the news portal Tehelka that exposed alleged irregularities in several defence deals, including the one to purchase the Barak systems.

Fernandes had claimed the government had given the go-ahead after receiving clearance from former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who was the then scientific advisor to the Defence Minister, but it was contradicted by CBI which said Kalam had on June 23, 1999 written against procurement of Barak Anti-Missile Defence System.