Scorpene deal hit by scam

New Delhi, Oct 3 | Updated: Oct 4 2005, 06:40am hrs
The $3 billion (Rs 13,000 crore) Scorpene deal is likely to come under a cloud even as India is scheduled to sign the formal contract on October 6 with French company Thales. The company is in the midst of a corruption scandal involving sales of chemical weapons to Iraq under Saddam Hussian.

A high-level French team is arriving here later this week to ink the deal for Indias acquisition of six Scorpene submarines and also to hold parleys on the offer of transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful uses.

Talking to FE, company sources denied completely denied allegations by a fired company executive that it paid out millions of dollars in bribes and sold chemical weapons to the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

The delegation, which would include officials and members of DCN-International, manufacturers of Scorpene, will hold talks with the officials of ministry of defence and Indian Navy to finalise the delivery schedule of the submarines and to further strengthen strategic ties between the two countries.

Sources in the MoD said that the Scorpene deal will be signed by defence secretary Shekhar Dutt and officials of the French company in the presence of top officials from both the sides, according to highly placed defence ministry sources.

Under the announcement made jointly by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Jacques Chirac in Paris on September 12, the six Scorpene submarines are to be manufactured at Mazagoan docks in Mumbai under full technology transfer. Though the delivery schedule has not been made public, according to highly placed sources the first of the submarines would roll out by 2009 and the remaining five by 2015.

The sources said that under the agreement, India would also be free to market the submarines in third countries. As part of the deal, the submarines will be armed with EADS SM39 Exocet sub-harpoon anti-ship missiles.

The other powerful weapons payload on the submarines include the Italian Black Shark and other advanced torpedoes.