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Varun Gandhi lands in row over defence secrets leak, denies charges

Bharatiya Janata Party MP Varun Gandhi was at the centre of a controversy over allegations that he had leaked defence secrets to middleman Abhishek Verma and arms manufacturers after being “honeytrapped”, a charge he stoutly denied.

india Updated: Oct 21, 2016 01:48 IST
Varun Gandhi,Abhishek Verma,Prashant Bhushan
BJP MP Varun Gandhi arrives in Parliament in New Delhi. (AFP file photo)

BJP parliamentarian Varun Gandhi landed in a controversy on Thursday over leaking military secrets to an arms dealer and weapon manufacturers after being allegedly “honey-trapped”.

The 36-year-old MP for Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh dismissed the charges.

The controversy surfaced after Swaraj Abhiyan leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav released a letter written by Edmonds Allen, a New York-based lawyer, to the PMO last month that said Gandhi was honey-trapped and leaked secret information to arms dealer Abhishek Verma.

Also, it has been alleged that Verma “blackmailed” Gandhi, who is a member of the defence consultative committee, into sharing sensitive information on crucial military deals.

For his part, Gandhi said he had not met Verma since 2004 and threatened to file a defamation suit against Bhushan and Yadav. The two leaders did not take Gandhi’s name at the press conference, though.

“The entire information presented does not contain an iota of proof that either I had access or shared any communication regarding sensitive information to Verma,” he said.

Allen, who was a partner of Verma, fell out with him in 2012. Verma is facing trial in the 2006 naval war room leak case.

Bhushan alleged that despite having all the details, the BJP government did not blacklist Thales, the company that sold scam-tainted Scorpene submarines, as Dassault acquired it. India recently signed a deal with Dassault for 36 Rafale fighter jets.

“Any action against Thales may have jeopardised the Rafale deal. Moreover, contrary to previous announcements of getting 126 aircraft, the government bought 36 aircraft, paying double the price for individual units. It certainly appears to be the case that something is fishy,” Bhushan said.

But defence minister Manohar Parrikar asserted that the euro 7.878 billion-deal for 36 Rafale fighters was the best offered to any country, rejecting Bhushan and Yadav’s allegation that India paid double the price.

he refused to comment on the duo’s allegation that Gandhi was honey-trapped into leaking secrets.

“How much does it cost to level an allegation?” an angry Parrikar retorted.

Verma too rejected the allegations, saying that the emails and photographs are fabricated. He also questioned the motive behind the release of such emails and photographs.

“Allen is a known forger and he had in the past also morphed some photos of another individual and I had filed a case of criminal defamation against Allen on February 6, 2012. The case trial is on and the matter is sub judice,” he said.

He too threatened to sue Bhushan and Yadav.

Allen apparently wrote to the Prime Minister, defence minister, the CBI and the NSA with details about the leaked secrets this August and September.

Gandhi said he last met Verma when he was a postgraduate student in London. He was 22 then.

“I am going to turn 37 now. I have never met him since I entered public life in 2004. The only reason why I even know of him is because his parents were members of Parliament and a respected family. I knew them as many other leaders knew them,” he said.

Did he come across sensitive information during his tenure in the defence consultative committee?

“Any MP who has been in that committee knows that not even 0.1 percentage of any confidential information is shared with the committee,” he said.

First Published: Oct 20, 2016 20:32 IST