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Verma appeals to Shankaran to return to settle controversy

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, July 4 (UNI) The alleged middleman in the Rs 18,000 crore Scorpene submarine deal Abhishek Verma has appealed to his friend R Shankaran, a nephew of Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash, to return to India to help the ongoing inquiries.

''I appeal to Shankaran... on the basis of our friendship ...

to return to India to assist inquiries to clear his uncle's name from the controversies surrounding it,'' he told UNI.

Claiming that he had no contact with Shankaran following the issuance of a non-bailable warrant against him in the infamous Naval War Room leak case, Verma, the son of a former Congress MP, said he believed that Shankaran was in ''some European country'' but had not talked to him in the last two months.

''He has even changed his phone number,'' he added.

Verma said Shankaran was his friend, and he hoped to reach him through the media, in an attempt to convince him to return to India and give himself up to the law. ''At the most, he will have to spend a few months in jail. But, the controversy will be settled at least,'' he added.

''In his absence, the media is conducting its own trial. He should come so the real trial can begin, and the controversy surrounding the Navy Chief is settled... that is Shankaran's duty,'' he said.

Asked why he did not seek to talk to Shankaran directly, Verma retorted that he would not do anything that would ''increase his own difficulties.'' ''I am not seeking to shield Shankaran. If he is guilty, then the law will punish him,'' he said, adding that according to media reports, Shankaran had come into the picture when one of the navy officers sacked in connection with the leak had sent him an e-mail from his official computer, seeking his help in preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to an oil company.

Shankaran, after quitting the Navy, had set up his own business of diving equipment. Significantly, most of the information leaked from the War Room had related to the acquisition of such equipment.

Verma also charged senior BJP leader L K Advani with trying to scrap the Scorpene deal, in favour of the competitor -- Germany's HDW -- as his party hoped to collar a large amount of funds from a company close to the German shipbuilding major.

''By creating a furore over the deal, the NDA hopes to gain a double advantage -- it will embarrass the UPA government as well as benefit the company donating funds to the BJP,'' he alleged.

He also claimed that the BJP was intent on framing him, as he provided an ideal scapegoat, with his family's long Congress linkages.

Verma has also filed a complaint of defamation against the BJP leader in a local court in Gurgaon. The next hearing in the matter has been scheduled for July 17.

UNI MK VD AT RS1103

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