Israel has said that no Israeli firm paid kickbacks to any Indian individual or firm to clinch the Rs 1,150 crore Barak anti-missile defence system. The revelation comes as a blow to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with agency director Ranjit Sinha admitting that the probe into alleged bribes paid 'may close down due to lack of evidence' since the details from Israel were crucial to proving the suspected irregularities in the case.
The 2000 Barak anti-missile defence deal was suspected to have been transacted in spite of the objections of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, which recommended the indigenously developed Trishul. It was also alleged that the deal was over-priced and processed essentially on a single-tender basis.
"Israel flatly said its verifications have found no evidence of any bribe or illegal commission to an Indian or an Indian firm by the accused Israeli missile system manufacturing firm, the state-run Israel Aircraft Industries Limited," a CBI source said. The denial is part of Israel's much-delayed response to CBI's judicial request and reminders, seeking details about the transaction which were sent after the agency lodged a First Information Report (FIR) in the case in October 2006.
The 2006 FIR mentioned former defence minister George Fernandes and then Navy chief Sushil Kumar, apart from unidentified officials of the Israel Aircraft Industries Limited. Fernandes and Kumar had rejected any alleged wrongdoing.
Israel insists that certain foreign remittances from a few Israeli firm accounts to some suspected Indian firms were genuine business transactions, the source said.
"It is suspected that bribes were paid to individuals in India via middlemen but we don't have adequate evidence to confirm that now," the source added.
The Barak (lightning in Hebrew) missile system employs vertically launched missiles to counter anti-ship sea-skimming missiles and attack by aircraft.