The Indian Navy is likely to move forward with the procurement of an additional 262 Barak-I missiles worth $641 million from Israeli Aerospace Industries, after India’s leading investigation agency closed its investigation into allegations of bribery in the Barak missile case.
The Barak-I missiles deemed a “critical operational requirement” by successive navy chiefs is likely to be cleared by the Defense Acquisitions Council led by defense minister AK Antony on December 23.
The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) on Tuesday closed the case against the accused; including former defence minister George Fernandes, former Navy chief Admiral Sushil Kumar and others admitting that it had no evidence of bribery.
The allegations first surfaced in 2001 when Tehelka, a New Delhi-based publication, released tapes showing several key players discussing bribes paid to close several defense deals, including the Barak missile procurement deal.
In its First Information Report, the CBI in 2006 alleged that “large payments were remitted from the firm MTU Aero Engines, a supplier to IAI, into the bank accounts of Dynatron Services, a company managed by Suresh Nanda (among the accused) and his family members.”
However, in its closure report filed on Monday, the CBI said that after six years it did not find any substantial evidence to prove that bribes were paid in lieu of the contract.
Initial investigations suggested that bribes worth $28.3 million was paid at various levels to secure the contract.
In 2000, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) was awarded a $200 million order for seven Barak missile systems, along with armament from Rafael Armament Development Authority to be installed on Indian naval ships.
The Navy has been calling for additional missiles to be procured with current stock of Barak-I AMD systems fast depleting.
The Barak-I AMD systems which intercept hostile incoming sea skimming missiles at a 9-km range also act as a defensive shield for aircraft carrier INS Viraat, the latest Shivalik stealth frigates and guided-missile destroyers.