'Honey-trapped' Indian MP leaked defence secrets, writes arms deal whistleblower to PM
Varun Gandhi said that he last met Verma when he was a postgraduate student in London. Photograph: (AFP)
Indian Member of Parliament Varun Gandhi was the focus of a controversy over claims that he had leaked defence secrets to middleman Abhishek Verma and arms manufacturers after being "honey-trapped", a charge Gandhi has denied.
Varun Gandhi is a Bharatiya Janata Party’s MP from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and a cousin of Rahul Gandhi who leads the opposition Congress party.
At a press conference in New Delhi, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, Swaraj Abhiyan leaders, released a letter written by C Edmonds Allen, a New York-based lawyer, to the Prime Minister's office last month claiming that Varun was "honey-trapped and compromised by Verma".
Allen alleged that Verma "blackmailed" Varun Gandhi, a member of the Defence Consultative Committee, into sharing sensitive information on crucial arms matters.
Varun Gandhi has rejected these charges, saying he had not met Verma since 2004. He said he last met Verma when he was a postgraduate student in London at the age of 22.
He has threatened to file a defamation suit against Bhushan and Yadav over the charges.
"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," Gandhi said, PTI reported.
Allen, who was Verma’s partner, 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 aircraft.
"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, PTI reported.
Bhushan and Yadav, however, did not take Varun Gandhi's name during the press conference and instead asked journalists to refer to the letter.
They claimed to have withheld photographic evidence pertaining to the matter, PTI reported.
Allen wrote to the Prime Minister, the defence minister, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Advisor with all the details in August and September this year.
"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," Varun Gandhi said, PTI reported.
When 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," PTI reported.
(WION with inputs from PTI)