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Lakhani was being groomed as an informer?

A UK intelligence source says FBI was trying to reach "real terrorism" planners via Lakhani.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:21 IST

The BBC has become very sensitive about its reputation since its brush with Downing Street over the news telecast that the PMO was behind the sexing up of the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

One of its senior correspondents Tom Manigold has announced that he was "issuing legal proceedings" against Newsweek after it alleged that his report on the arrest of Hemant Lakhani by FBI on the charge of trying to sell missiles to Islamic terrorists had "blown" a major intelligence operation.

Manigold, one understands, has instructed the solicitors Mischon de Reya to write to the Newsweek that claimed that his report on the arrest of Lakhani had forced the FBI to "abort its plan to recruit (him) as an informant".

The BBC and Manigold dispute the magazine's allegations that are said to have emanated from senior officials in the US Justice Department. The US Attorney in New Jersey too is said to have denied the Newsweek report.

Manigold stands by his report that Lakhani was involved in a plot to shoot down the presidential Air Force One plane. But, the Newsweek report has once again raised the issue as to why and how intelligence zeroed in on him.

It is accepted that he was apolitical and was a strict Hindu who thus, should not have harboured any fanatical sympathy for Islamic terrorists. His own son Sanjay has been living in New York. Mihir Bose told HindustanTimes.com's UK Bureauthat as far as he knew Lakhani was a secretive person who was afraid of getting his name come out even when he was helping the Fraud Squad during investigation of Raj Sethia's Esal Commodities company.

One source said that possibly Lakhani, who reportedly used to go to Eastern Europe, was lured there to try to sell missiles and then some one tipped off the Soviet intelligence. Whatever it be the Newsweek report has raised new doubts about why was Lakhani targeted for a sting operation. Was he being drawn in to become an informant and reach the FBI to the real terror masterminds?

One intelligence source here believes that the FBI was trying to get to the "real terrorism" planners through him.

First Published: Dec 25, 2003 21:33 IST