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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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Joint operation led to IAF officers' arrest: Jaswant

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JULY 30. A joint operation by the CBI, the intelligence unit of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) led to the arrest of a few IAF officers and some civilians last week, the Defence Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, said today.

In a statement in both the Houses of Parliament, the Defence Minister said that suspicions about wrongdoing in certain purchases came to light after the IAF intelligence became aware that one Sergeant K.C. Saini, who was posted at the Air Headquarters, was providing information on defence purchases on payment. Sergeant Saini had also sought to recruit another Non- Commissioned Officer (NCO) for the purpose. The NCO, however, reported this matter to a senior officer who informed the IAF's Air Intelligence unit.

The IAF then decided to convey to Sergeant Saini that a ``superior officer '' whom the NCO had contacted had also entered the ring. At this juncture, the IB was brought into the picture and was informed that the ``superior officer'' would function as decoy in meetings arranged by Sergeant Saini.

In May 2001, Sergeant Saini arranged a meeting of the ``superior officer'' with Air Vice Marshal (AVM) J.S. Kumar (Retired). Sergeant Saini was paid a sum of Rs. 19,000 by AVM Kumar for introducing the new contact. AVM Kumar also paid Rs. 50,000 to the officer functioning as decoy, with the promise of more payments for passing commercial information. AVM Kumar sought specific information on certain purchases of the IAF.

At this point the CBI was brought into the picture and a formal FIR was lodged. The CBI, thereafter, took over the investigations and an operation was launched on July 26. The CBI nabbed AVM Kumar and Sergeant Saini during their meeting with the decoy officer. Simultaneously, the CBI raided the premises of four other retired IAF officers, one employee of the Ministry of Defence and four civilians.

In the searches conducted by the CBI so far, AVM Kumar was found possessing documents pertaining to defence deals along with a large amount of cash in his residence.

Documents of commercial nature pertaining to defence deals were also confiscated from the premises of other retired IAF officers.

Seven individuals have so far been arrested for questioning.

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