The Barak Missile Scam:

The Barak Missile Scam is yet another example of the defense perpetrated scam, along with the Tatra Truck and the Soltam anti material rifle scam. The Barak deal was one of the biggest scams perpetrated during the tenure of the NDA Government in India. This scandal pertains to the procurement of the Barak Missile Systems from Israel by India. Several alleged accomplices to this scam had been nailed by the CBI, following an investigation in the scam, which includes the ex – treasurer of the Samata Party, R K Jain. Other important politicians and eminent authorities indicted in the First Investigation Report includes ex – Defense Minister George Fernandes, politician Jaya Jaitley and ex – naval officer Suresh Nanda (son of the retired Chief of the Naval Staff, S M Nanda).

The Barak Missile System was the result of the joint venture of the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and the RAFAEL Armament Industry of Israel. India had penned contracts with Israel on 23rd October, 2000 to purchase seven such missile systems, the budget for which was USD 199.50 million and 200 missiles at a cost of USD 69.13 million.  This contract was finalized in the face of severe disagreement of several people including members of the group, who had initially visited Israel to ratify the performance of the missile system. APJ Abdul Kalam, the then Chief of the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO), had also raised strong objections against the procurement contract.

Findings of the CBI investigations in the Barak missile scam:

The Barak scandal was exposed in 2001, with the Tehelka publishing the infamous ‘Operation West End’ tapes, which clearly depicted eminent personalities like R K Jain, Samata Party treasurer and close associates of George Fernandes, comparing notes on bribes associated with defense procurements including the Barak deal. As per the claims of R K Jain, Nanda gave him a bribe of Rs 1crore to ensure that Fernandes ratified the Rs 1,150 crore Barak deal. Initial CBI probes had indicated that a total of Rs 174 crores had been paid as bribes, starting from the top rungs of the Defense hierarchy to the bottom, for swinging the Barak deal. CBI had left no stone unturned in the last six years, in pursuing the investigation, from interrogating every individual with the slightest of involvements to the chief accused, taking the investigative procedures to Israel, as well as seeking the opinions of the Law Ministry. The CBI had confirmed of holding prolonged discussions regarding the minutes of the Barak contract and the strange absence of the alleged paper trail on various occasions with the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in the past years.

As per the allegations of the CBI investigation, The Crown Corporation, a company owned by Suresh Nanda, was used as a front for the IAI for funneling the bribe money to swing the missile deal. As per the FIR of CBI furnished on October 9th, 2009, MTU Aero Engines, a supplier of components to the IAI, had dispatched a substantial amount of payment to the accounts of the Dynatron Services, a company under the supervision of Suresh Nanda and the members of his family. The CBI had further accused Nanda of making a payment of Rs 2 crores to Jaya Jaitley, in the Fernandes residence, to ensure the former Defense Minister’s signature on the contract papers the final step to clinch the deal for seven Barak Anti Missile Systems (AMD) and 200 missiles from the IAI. As confirmed by the CBI, the entire deal was contrived within a very short period of time in the face of strong objections of the DRDO, then headed by A P J Abdul Kalam. In fact Kalam’s recommendations for the indigenously manufactured Trishul missile for the Navy fell on deaf ears of the Defense Ministry. However, this fact turned out to be gross misinformation when the former Navy Chief Admiral Kumar had implemented the RTI Act to conclusively prove that the Trishul projects were far from completion and can in no way be used to arm the Indian warships which had practically become sitting targets for enemy aggression in the open seas.

The CBI had implicated George Fernandes for overriding the DRDO’s commendations under the influence of illegal go – betweens, which was in direct defiance of his portfolio as the Defense Minister. CBI had also indicted Navy Chief Admiral Kumar for conspiring with the go – betweens and the other individuals alleged in this case for colluding and closing the deal of the purchase of the 7 Barak AMD systems with Fernandes.

It needs to be mentioned here that in spite of the ongoing CBI investigations of October 2006, the MoD had demurred from blackballing the Israeli arms companies IAI and RAFAEL on the grounds that it might jeopardize national security. This action of the MoD was a stark contradiction of its past actions of banishing other arms manufacturers like the Corporation Defense, (Russia), Rheinnmetal Air Defense, (Zurich) and Denel, (South Africa), on the grounds of distortions and irregularities.

CBI to close case on the Barak missile scam:

After investigating the Barak missile scam for seven years, the CBI is closing the case on the grounds of lack of evidence against the chief alleged in the case, which includes the former Defense Minister George Fernandes, ex – Samata Party President Jaya Jaitley, former Navy Chief Admiral Sushil Kumar and businessman Suresh Nanda. In the recent case closure report by the CBI, the investigative body has announced that it was unable to unearth any decisive evidence that indicated bribery or other distortions involved with the contract. The decision that the case should be closed came from one of the top authorities of the CBI. As per the statement released on behalf of the CBI, “The alleged abnormality in giving contract to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) could not be substantiated”. The CBI had also made several arrests in connections with the investigations into the Barak Missile deal. While the CBI’s move of closing the case is congruent with its performance history of total incapability to unravel defense corruptions, as of 12th November, 2013 the MoD has taken the decision to push forward with the Barak missile deal, finalizing the procurement of 262 Barak missiles manufactured by the IAI and the RAFAEL industries of Israel. The Defense Acquisition Council had furnished a special panel to clear the deal of any legal complications, after the MoD received a green light from the Attorney General on closing the deal.

Conclusion:

In the light of the progression of events in the Barak missile deal, not much remains to be said. Corruption in the Defense Ministry of our country perhaps supersedes corruption in every other sector. And the most interesting fact is, in spite of CBI investigations in every Defense perpetrated scam, not one single person had ever been arrested, in spite of several impeachments!

India happens to provide one of the chief markets for Israel manufactured armaments and is presently on the brink of finalizing a contract regarding the procurement of the Barak anti – tank missile, a product of the RAFAEL Advanced Defense System. Furthermore, India is also mulling over the proposed purchase of the Spike anti – tank missile. In the meantime DRDO is gearing up for a joint project with Israel in developing a ‘man portable high tech battlefield systems’ for the Indian Army, a project which has an estimated market value of USD 3 million. Israel Aerospace Industries, the pilot group of Israel’s armament industries, had already bagged a contract of USD 1.1 billion in 2009 for providing the Indian Navy with the advanced Barak – 8 tactical air defense missiles for the Navy frigates, which the Navy plans to develop into a multi – purpose weapons system, and is in the process of financing the said plan. Considering so many proposed armaments purchase plans and joint ventures of our country with Israel, it is naturally expedient for the MoD to thwart any investigations that might perturb Israel!

The Barak missile scam once again proves that, the politicians, especially those in the high places, are virtually untouchables, including the ex – politicians like George Fernandes. Once a politician always a politician and so even after seven years of rigorous investigation, CBI turns out to be a failure and the eventual laughing stock!

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