Def Ministry to probe if missing file affected fighter deal

New Delhi, Jan 17 (PTI) As an IAF probe gave cleanchit to its personnel, the Defence Ministry has initiated ahigh-level inquiry to find out whether mishandling of asensitive file could have vitiated a proposed multibilliondollar fighter deal.

The "comprehensive" Defence Ministry probe will beconducted by an Additional Secretary-rank official and thereport is expected to be submitted to the Defence Minister bythe month-end, sources said here today.

The Defence Ministry will ask all the stakeholders inthe case to prove that the deal was not affected in any way bythe loss of the secret file, which was recovered from aroadside in South Delhi.

There is a possibility of the proposedMedium-Multirole Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) deal being cancelled"partially" or "fully" if the tendering process is found tohave been affected, they added.

The incident had occured on December 22 last year whenthe secret file was spotted by a security guard outside theBharat Electronic Limited (BEL) guest house in Khelgaon andhanded it over to the IAF authorities.

The IAF had set up a Court of Inquiry (CoI), whosereport was submitted to the Ministry today. The CoI isunderstood to have given a clean chit to its own officials.

Last week, Defence Minister A K Antony had said thatthe Ministry would take further action into the case afterreceiving the IAF report.

Earlier, downplaying the incident, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik had said the file didn''t have any "earth-shaking"content and it hardly had anything to do peripherally with theM-MRCA and was not going to affect the tender.

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