What’s the scandal all about? 

Newly formed political party Swaraj Abhiyan’s biggest leaders, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav held a press conference on Thursday in which they released a letter written by a US-based lawyer to the Prime Minister’s Office. 

In the letter, New York-based lawyer Edmonds Allen alleged that Varun Gandhi had been honey-trapped (blackmailed for sex) and had given away sensitive information on defence deals to avoid being exposed. 

b’Yadav and Bhushan have alleged manipulation of defence deals | Source: PTI’

The letter alleges that arms middleman Abhishek Verma had blackmailed Gandhi using CDs and photos of the MP with foreign commercial sex workers in compromising positions. 

The letter says that  Gandhi, who was a member of the Defence Consultative Committee, and other MPs, staff, and officers may have been blackmailed into sharing details of defence secrets. 

What difference did the disclosures make, according to Swaraj Abhiyan?

According to the two anti-corruption campaigners, the government carried out recent defence deals despite the possibility that they were tainted. 

Bhushan alleged that despite having all the details of this alleged scandal, the BJP government did not blacklist Thales, the company that sold scam-tainted Scorpene submarines, because Dassault had acquired it. India recently signed a deal with Dassault for 36 Rafale aircraft.

b’The Rafale jet deal was recently signed by the government | Source: Reuters’

“Any action against Thales may have jeopardised the Rafale deal. Moreover, contrary to previous announcements of getting 126 aircrafts, the government bought 36 aircrafts, paying double the price for individual units. It certainly appears to be the case that something is fishy,” Bhushan said.

Incidentally, Bhushan and Yadav did not take Varun Gandhi’s name during the press conference and instead asked journalists to refer to the letter. They also said they had released all details of the scandal barring the photographic evidence that the lawyer had sent to the Prime Minister’s Office.

What has Varun Gandhi said?

Gandhi has rejected all the charges, saying he has not met Verma since 2004 and threatened to file a defamation suit against Bhushan and Yadav over the charges.

“The entire information presented does not contain an iota of proof that either I had access or shared any communication regarding sensitive information to Verma,” Gandhi said.

Varun said he last met Verma when he was a post graduate student in London at the age of 22 years.

b’Gandhi has denied all the allegations | Source: PTI’

“I am going to turn 37 now. I have never met him since I entered public life in 2004. The only reason why I even know of him is because his parents were members of parliament and was a respected family. I knew them as many other leaders knew them,” he said.

Asked if he had come across any sensitive information during his tenure on the consultative committee on defence, he said, “Any MP who has been on that committee knows that not even 0.1 percentage of any confidential information is shared with the committee.

So who is Abhishek Verma? 

Abhishek Verma is a defence middleman best known for his alleged involvement in the 2006 Naval War Room leak case in which sensitive information from the defence forces was leaked to him. Verma had allegedly paid bribes to get the information. 

b’Verma was arrested in the Navy war room leak case | Source: PTI’

Allen, the New York-based lawyer was Verma’s partner earlier. 

What has Verma said?

“At the outset, I deny all the allegations contained in the aforesaid 7-page letter. I also deny all the allegations levelled by Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan at their press conference on Thursday,” Verma said in a statement.

“New-York-based lawyer Edmonds Allen is a known forger and he had in the past also morphed some photos of another individual and I had filed a case of criminal defamation against Allen in Patiala House Court on February 6, 2012. The case trial is on and the matter is subjudice,” he said.

He said the so called “emails and photos are fabricated as I had not issued nor photographed Gandhi nor referred to him anywhere.”

b’Abhishek Verma has denied meeting Gandhi | Source: PTI’

“These are attempts on part of Allen to defame me, and others named in the letter. Allen is a known forger and there is a suit pending under sections of Information Technology Act and forgery at Patiala House courts which is subjudice therefore, this new act today orchestrated by Allen is true to his nature of character assassination by forgery and deceit.

“I will be initiating a suit for criminal defamation against Edmonds Allen and maybe against Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav shortly,” he said.

He questioned as to why Allen did not disclose these contents, made public today, when a joint team of CBI and Enforcement Directorate visited the latter in New York in 2012.