BJP MP Varun Gandhi is at the centre of a controversy over allegations that he had leaked defence secrets to middleman Abhishek Verma and arms manufacturers after being honey trapped, a charge he stoutly denied.
Varun rejected these charges, saying he has not met Verma since 2004 and threatened to file a defamation suit against Bhushan and Yadav over the charges, saying, "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 that he last met Verma when he was a post graduate student in London at the age of 22 years. "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 was a respected family. I knew them as many other leaders knew them," he said. Asked if he had come across any sensitive information during his tenure on the consultative committee on defence, he said, "Any MP who has been on that committee knows that not even 0.1 percentage of any confidential information is shared with the committee."
At a press conference in New Delhi, Swaraj Abhiyan leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav had released a letter written by Edmonds Allen, a New York-based lawyer, to the PMO last month that Varun was honey trapped and compromised by Verma. The lawyer alleged that Verma "blackmailed" Varun, a member of the Defence Consultative Committee, into sharing sensitive information on crucial arms matters.
Referring to the recently signed deal between India and French aircraft manufacturer Dassault for 36 Rafale aircraft, Bhushan had 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. Dassault Aviation has 25.3 percent stake in Thales. "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," he said.. However, Bhushan and Yadav did not take Varun's name during the press conference and instead asked journalists to refer to the letter. They claimed to have withheld photographic evidences pertaining to the matter.
Allen had written to the PM, Defence Minister, CBI and the NSA with all the details on August and September this year. He was Verma's partner but fell out with him in 2012 and Verma is facing trial in the 2006 Naval War Room leak case.
Abhishek Verma himself rejected allegations of purported defence leaks by saying the emails and photographs being circulated are "fabricated" and questioned the motive of the releases made on Thursday. He said the so-called "emails and photos are fabricated as I had not issued nor photographed Gandhi nor referred to him anywhere...These are attempts on part of Allen to defame me, and others named in the letter."
"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 in Patiala House Court on 6 February, 2012. The case trial is on and the matter is subjudice," Verma said in a statement issued on Thursday. The pending suit against him under sections of Information Technology Act and forgery and the letter orchestrated by Allen is true to his nature of character assasination by forgery and deceit, he claimed. "I will be initiating a suit for criminal defamation against C Edmonds Allen and maybe against Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav shortly," he added.
He questioned as to why Allen did not disclose these contents, made public on Thursday, when a joint team of CBI and Enforcement Directorate visited the latter in New York in 2012. "Why is it that Allen did not provide these photos or talked a bout the angle of blackmailing of Gandhi to the CBI and ED? Why now after four years when last month I was granted bail by Honourable Courts?" he said. With regard to the Scorpene deal, Verma said that the "Delhi High Court had on 13 January, 2016 dismissed the PIL filed by Bhushan on Scorpene Submarines purchase in which I was implicated as a party by Bhushan, as it had no merit. Bhushan suppressed the above fact of dismissal of his PIL in this issue in his tweet of last week and also in today’s press conference. The act of Bhushan today tantamounts to contempt of court," he said.
Rejecting Bhushan and Yadav's allegation that India paid double the price, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday asserted that the recently-signed Euro 7.878 billion-deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was the best ever offered to any country. "Rafale is the best deal that we have managed. It was because Prime Minister of India and President of France agreed that we have this deal which has not been offered to any other country," he said. "How much does it cost to level allegation?" he added angrily.
Parrikar said nothing has been proved in the alleged Scorpene leak and hence the case for banning any firm does not arise. He, however, refused to comment on the duo's allegation that BJP parliamentarian Varun Gandhi was "honey trapped" into leaking defence secrets, a charge stoutly denied by the leader.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Oct 21, 2016 10:52 AM