TNN, Apr 13, 2010, 04.03am IST
NEW DELHI: A senior naval officer, closely associated with the contentious project to acquire aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov from Russia, which saw several twists and turns, is now in the dock for alleged improper personal conduct.
The Indian Navy is on the verge of completing a high-level board of inquiry (BoI) against Commodore Sukhjinder Singh for alleged ‘‘loose moral conduct’’ while he was posted in Russia from 2005 to 2007.
This came after certain objectionable photographs of Commodore Singh apparently surfaced around a fortnight ago.
The seriousness of the affair, in what could even be a classic ‘‘honey-trap operation’’, can be gauged from the fact that Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma has already “briefed” defence minister A K Antony about the case.
The BoI headed by a vice-admiral is also probing whether Commodore Singh’s “personal transgressions” had any bearing on the Gorshkov deal, which was renegotiated and inked afresh just last month after two-three years of contentious negotiations over the huge cost escalation in the carrier’s refit.
India will now have to pay $2.33 billion for the aircraft carrier’s refit to Russia and wait till early-2013 to get the delivery.
Commodore Singh was in Russia as the warship production superintendent overseeing the refit of Gorshkov till 2007.
While holding that the BoI report will be out in “a day or two”, Navy officials contended that the likelihood of Commodore Singh “compromising” the Gorshkov price negotiations were “negligible”.
“Preliminary indications are that the involvement has been at a personal level. He was the juniormost of the nine-member commercial negotiations committee,” said an official.
“Moreover, he had already been posted to the quality assurance wing when the actual work on the refit price was done in the latter half of 2009,” he added.
Gorshkov deal: Navy officer in honey-trap?
On his return to Delhi, Commodore Singh was appointed to the crucial post of principal director (Aircraft Carrier Project) looking after the Gorshkov project from the Indian Navy headquarters.
He was also a member of the cost negotiation committee (CNC) set up last year to resolve the unprecedented Russian demand for an increase in the carrier's refit cost.
India had last month cleared the $2.35 billion revised price for the carrier.
The warship, originally purchased for $1.5 billion, is currently undergoing a refit at Russia's Sevmash shipyard. Of the total cost, $974 million was meant for the refit and the balance for a squadron of MiG-29K combat jets that will be deployed on the vessel.
Citing additional costs for the refit, Moscow had jacked up the price to $2.9 billion, while New Delhi wanted this to be scaled back to $2.1 billion. The revised price was decided on during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi last month.(IANS)
Indian Navy probing officer handling Gorshkov project
A navy source said Singh was “hand-picked” in 2004 to look after the Gorshkov refit in Russia. He had been a favourite of the naval top brass and was involved in all ministry of defence (MoD) and naval delegation visits to Russia to look into the Gorshkov deal. There is no instance in recent memory of India assenting to revise an agreed defence contract and pay almost three times more, as was the case with Gorshkov. Though it was being justified by the government as because of the complex nature of the contract, many within the navy as well as others expressed outrage about the price hike demand by Russia. Many had informally called for the cancellation of the contract.
Navy officer in Gorshkov deal faces sex-scandal inquiry
Honey trap to hike up price of Gorshkov
New Delhi, April 14: Naval headquarters is investigating if a honey trap sprung on a senior officer compromised it during hard-bargaining with Russia for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.
The officer, a commodore, was posted in Severodvinsk as the warship production superintendent from 2005 to 2008. It was his responsibility to oversee the refit of the carrier.
A CD of photographs delivered to naval headquarters shows the officer in intimate contact with a woman, probably Russian, at the time of his overseas posting. This has led to suspicions that the officer was blackmailed into making recommendations that forced India to accept the Russian demand for a huge hike in the carrier’s price.
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