Secret file loss: Def Min officials under scanner

Two senior Defence Ministry officials have come under scanner as probe gathered momentum into an incident in which a secret IAF file related to multi-billion dollar aircraft deal was found.

New Delhi: Two senior Defence Ministry officials, including one of Additional Secretary rank, have come under scanner as probe gathered momentum into an incident in which a secret IAF file related to multi-billion dollar aircraft deal was found by a roadside here.

Viewing the development seriously, Defence Minister A K Antony today said the officials needed to be careful while dealing with files related to the proposed procurement of Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA).

Last week, an IAF file related to the offsets clause in the M-MRCA deal worth over USD 11 billion had gone missing from the Defence Ministry and was recovered from the roadside in Khelgaon locality in South Delhi.

The inquiry, launched soon after, has found that the file apparently was lost by an Additional Secretary-rank official while he was taking it to Bharat Electronic Limited guest-house, his temporary home, in Khelgaon, sources said.
The file, marked `secret`, was found by a security guard who handed it over to a senior Defence Ministry official who was passing by, they said.

"The official was subsequently asked to vacate the guest house which he did at 0400 hours today," they said.

The official has named a Director-level officer in the Department of Defence Production for the incident and his role is also being probed, the sources said.

"We have viewed the incident seriously. An Inquiry is on in the case," Antony said while commenting on the incident.

"As far as M-MRCA is concerned, I am clear that every officer needs to be careful at every stage," he said.

After the incident came to light, IAF and the Defence Ministry had simaltaneously launched an inquiry into the case.
"The IAF has ordered a CoI into the loss of the secret file which went missing from the Defence Ministry. The Ministry will order a separate probe into the incident as the file had gone missing from there," Air Vice Marshal M Matheswaran, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) had said after the incident came to light on Friday.

The incident comes at a time when the aircraft deal has entered a critical stage after the IAF carried out extensive flight evaluation trials of the six participating aircraft.

The IAF had submitted its report to the Defence Ministry, which has to take a final call on the deal.

Under the Offsets clause in the defence production procedure, a foreign vendor bagging any deal worth over Rs 300 crore has to invest back at least 30 per cent of the contract`s worth back in Indian defence sector.

Under the M-MRCA deal, the offsets were pegged at 50 per cent of the worth of the deal.

American F-16 and F/A-18, French Rafale, Swedish Gripen, Russian MiG 35 and European Eurofighter are the six contenders participating the deal for supplying the aircraft
to the IAF.