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Navy probe indicts senior officer

Source: PTI
April 16, 2010 12:29 IST
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Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday said a Navy inquiry has established a senior officer's connections with a Russian woman, but it was yet to be probed whether the link had influenced the price hike of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier.

The officer, Commodore Sukhjinder Singh, was in charge of the Gorshkov refit project in Russia between 2005 and 2007, and was part of the cost negotiation committee that firmed up a revised price of $2.33 billion for the Kiev class aircraft carrier's refit at a Russian shipyard.

"Navy has completed one part of its investigations and they have just started the second part of the investigations. The particular man (Com Singh) had some relations with the other side...a lady. That part has been established. Nothing beyond that is proved so far. Let the Navy complete the investigation," Antony told reporters.

"The Navy is taking special care to speed up the investigation (into Com Singh's liaison) as soon as the investigation is complete, we will take a decision. I do not want to jump to conclusions (before the probe is over)," he said after addressing the inaugural session of the two-day Armed forces' Unified Commanders Conference here.

Antony said he had asked the Navy to speed up the investigation "as quickly as possible".

"They (Navy) are at it. Prematurely I do not want to jump to conclusions. Let them complete it (the probe)," he said.

The Navy had yesterday submitted its Board of Inquiry report into the episode that began with it receiving a set of "objectionable" photographs of the officer along with the Russian woman a week ago.

Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma is now scrutinising the report to recommend a suitable punishment to be awarded to the officer to the Defence Ministry.

After his Russian tenure, Singh was posted back to India as the Principal Director of Aircraft Carrier Project before he was transferred to the Directorate General of Quality Assurance in the capital late last year.

Last month, the Cabinet Committee on Security gave its nod to sign a deal with the Sevmash Shipyard for the Gorshkov's refit at $2.33 billion (about Rs 11,000 crore).

India had in 2004 bought the 45,000-tonne warship at a cost of $974 million, but the shipyard twice hiked its price for the refit and repair programme since 2007.

Though originally scheduled for delivery in August 2008, the protracted cost negotiation led to a delay in the repair work on the aircraft carrier and now it has been rescheduled for 2012.

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