The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Woman scent in navy bust
- Ex-commanders held in leak case

New Delhi, April 6: A scandal in the Indian Navy, one of the most exclusive establishments in the country, was played out in public today like a war-time operation ' full with a chain of arrests, multiple-state raids and whispers of a honey trap.

The crackdown, launched by the CBI, took off last night from the Delhi airport when a retired lieutenant, Kulbhushan Parashar, was arrested on arrival from London.

By the time the CBI called it a day, three former officers, a woman and her father had been picked up and 17 places from Delhi to Goa to Bihar had been raided. Other than Parashar, two former commanders ' dismissed from service ' have been arrested.

The scandal, known as the war-room leak case, revolves around an intelligence tip-off in July last year that information was flowing out of the defence service’s headquarters.

The defence establishment described the nature of the information as “commercial, not linked to national security” ' a euphemism that suggests industrial espionage. In the highly lucrative world of military contracts, some bidders are known to use such tactics to get information.

The leak had assumed wider significance after a news report suggested that the leaked information related to Project 75 ' India’s submarine development programme. The claim prompted the BJP to allege foul play in the award of the Scorpene submarine contract.

Another factor that lent a high-profile twist to the leak scandal was an allegation that the officers sacked for the leak were linked to Ravi Shankaran, the nephew of navy chief Arun Prakash’s wife.

The establishments of Shankaran, a retired lieutenant commander, were raided today. Shankaran, who runs a company called Shanx Oceaneering that has been dealing with the navy, is said to be in London since November 2005.

The defence ministry had given a clean chit to the navy chief as soon as Shankaran’s name started doing the rounds.

Sources said the CBI was unlikely to have come across anything substantial during today’s raids since they were carried out as many as nine months after the scandal was first unearthed.

The leak was established first when a wing commander, S.L. Surve, was detained and the investigators stumbled on a pen drive (a memory chip) with data last July. Though Surve belonged to the air force, the chip had data from the navy war room.

Surve and a sacked navy captain, Kashyap Kumar, a former director in the directorate of naval operations, have been given time till April 10 to report to the CBI.

The name of Surve, who was dismissed from service in October, again surfaced when reports began to circulate that a Pune-based woman, Rajrani Jaiswal, had written to Air Headquarters alleging that she was being exploited by the then air force officer.

Rajrani was the woman arrested during the CBI crackdown today. Her father, Mukesh Bajaj, was also picked up from Pune. The two have been picked up on the charge of criminal conspiracy but the CBI did not officially say what role the father and daughter played in the leak.

The other two arrested are V.K. Jha, a dismissed commander, and Vinod Rana, another sacked commander.

CBI sources said they are also probing an angle if a honey trap ' women seducing officials for information ' was used in the war-room leak.

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