Ex-wing commander held, ‘key link’ to Abhishek Verma

Koka Rao
Former wing commander Koka Rao (61), arrested by the CBI on Thursday night, could be the "key link" in the leak of highly secret documents from the Defence Ministry to arms dealer Abhishek Verma.

The CBI, which filed a chargesheet against Rao, Verma, his wife Anca Neascu and their firm Ganton India before a Delhi court on Friday, said that the handwriting on the classified notes which had been supplied by a former escrow fund manager of Verma, Edmond Allen, belonged to Rao. Verma and his wife were arrested in June this year and are currently in judicial custody.

Rao along with Verma and Neascu has been charged under Sections 3 of the Official Secrets Act, and 380 (theft) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. The chargesheet was filed after the Union Home Ministry's authorisation.

According to the chargesheet, Rao had been working with Ganton. The samples of his handwriting were sent to GEQD (Government Examiner of Questioned Documents), Shimla, for an opinion and Rao was questioned by the CBI. Probe is on against other MoD officials and a supplementary chargesheet will be filed soon, said the CBI.

Investigators said that Rao, who retired almost a decade ago, continued to have friends and connections in the Defence Ministry and Air Force and used this to gather information. One of the many documents in the CBI's possession talks of how very senior officers — including serving air marshals and lieutenant generals — had been invited to parties thrown by Rao.

A party planned on the 60th birthday of a retired wing commander on November 22, 2011, is mentioned in detail. The guest list circulated internally within Ganton employees included seven serving three-star-level officers — most of them dealing with procurements in the Army and Air Force. Those named as guests included current Vice-Chief of Air Staff D C Kumaria, who was then heading the Western Command. Kumaria has clarified that he did not attend any party thrown by Rao.

Others named in the list included the director general of Ordnance, the quarter master general and director general, Weapons and Equipment, from the Army. An unnamed senior official of the Defence Intelligence Agency was also mentioned. However there is no confirmation so far that any of the officers mentioned in the documents actually attended the party thrown by Rao, said officials.

The internal Ganton document also discusses how the guest list was drawn up "purely from our professional approach".

According to the agency, the 17 pages handed over by Allen contain classified information on acquisition plans of the Air Force in 2011-12, alarmingly from eight directorates of the Air Headquarters, as reported by The Indian Express first. These include details on repair of Aerostat radars and spares for long-range radars, procurements for Su-30 MKI aircraft, spares for the Mi-25 attack helicopters and missiles, chaffs and flares as well as ammmunition.

The CBI registered a case under the Official Secrets Act after the Defence Ministry filed a complaint listing eight of the documents given by Allen as "secret".

The chargesheet says Verma was passing on classified information to clients and private defence companies. The agency also lists e-mails exchanged between Verma and Allen, as well as Allen's statement recorded by the Enforcement Directorate in the US last month.

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