BJP leader Varun Gandhi published an open letter on 22 October, refuting the reports that he had allegedly leaked defence secrets to arms middleman Abhishek Verma.
At a press conference in New Delhi on 20 October, Swaraj Abhiyan leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav released a letter written by Edmonds Allen, a New York-based lawyer, to the PMO last month.
In the letter released on Twitter, Gandhi claims to have listed the facts that will prove his innocence in the matter.
My letter to the people of India. pic.twitter.com/K3Nn48b79A— Varun Gandhi (@varungandhi80) October 22, 2016
Full text of Varun Gandhi's open letter
Here's the full text of the letter, as transcribed from the image Gandhi published on his social media accounts:
22 October 2016To my fellow countrymen
I write to you today on the heels of a deeply disturbing media release allegedly base don a letter containing wild and unsubstantiated claims against me.
I would like to point out the false and frivolous nature of its charges, and the impossibility of these allegations.
The subject title of the letter refers to the Defence Consultative Committee and the opening line of the letter claims that I, as a member of the Defence Consultative Committee, was entrapped into providing "information on the workings of the parliamentary Defence Committee of which he was a members since 2010."
The fact is that while I was a member of both the Defence Standing Committee and the Defence Consultative Committee from 2009, the records will confirm that I never attended a single meeting of the Defence Consultative Committee and very few of the Standing Committee. Clearly I was neither actively seeking out nor passing on any information. Had there been an hidden agenda or motivation as alleged in the letter it would have been reflected in my attendance.
In any case, as any Parliamentarian well knows, and as per established parliamentary procedure, there is never "confidential or top secret" information accessible to such parliamentary panels. As a first time opposition MP, I could not, and did not have any access to any sensitive defence information so the question of being allegedly coerced into revealing anything does not even arise.
As himself stated by Allen in his letter, all these allegations have long been furnished by him to the CBI. The case in is entirety has been extensively and in detail investigated by both the CBI and the ED over several years, on the basis of which chargesheets have already been filed. In none of the proceedings has my name ever cropped up, nor has there been any indication of my involvement in any capacity whatsoever. Had these top investigative agencies even the least suspicion or proof of any involvement whatsoever on my part in all these years, it would surely have been reported by now.
While I am confident that neither you nor any right thinking person places any credence in these allegations, what I find worrying is that such baseless accusations should be circulating at a time when the entire nation is united behind our defence forces.
I should like to set out the facts so that you may unequivocally dismiss these malicious rumours.
1. I have never met Mr. Edmonds Allen who has written this letter containing these allegations. Nor do I have any details of who he is, nor what he does expect as has been reported in the press of him being a former associate of Mr. Abhishek Verma.
2. I first made acquaintance with Verma when I was a college student in England. He was introduced as the son of late Smt Veena and Shri Shrikant Verma, both Members of Parliaments from a well respected family. We met socially over a short period of time. It has been many years since we last met. At no point did we ever discussed work, neither his nor mine.
3. According to media reports, Allen and Verma had some business dealings that went sour. It would seem that a disgruntled Allen is now seeking maximum publicity for his charges against his erstwhile associate. He is therefore naming public figures like myself in order to attract greater public attention for his grievances, real of imagined. I have needlessly been sought to be embroiled into a controversy in which I have no part.
4. The allegations against Verma by Allen have long been the subject of detailed investigation by both the CBI and the ED, and there are ongoing proceedings regarding the same, including the chargesheets that have been filed.
5. It is ludicrous to suggest that I was ever "blackmailed" as I had done nothing wrong. It is even more bizarre to claim that I "leaked" top secret defence information from the Defence Parliamentary Committee when every Parliamentarian is well aware that no sensitive defence information is shared with such a parliamentary panel.
6. As a first time MP of the opposition party I could not have had any access to any confidential information, far from leaking it.
7. This letter has made very serious allegations against me, without any facts, evidence or justification whatsoever. It is unethical that such damaging accusations should have been publicly aired without being scrutinized, verified or even clarified.
In public life one learns to take criticism and detractors in one's stride. However all criticism must be based on some fact. In this instance there is not one grain of truth or one shred of evidence. My family and I have been deeply traumatized by these lies. I am taking legal recourse against those who have deliberately sought to tarnish my reputation and public standing. Here, I simply wanted to share the truth without delay so that such mischief is nipped in the bud.
I owe everything to this great Nation and shall always endeavor to live up to the faith and trust reposed in me.
The allegations against Varun Gandhi
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Allen - Verma's former partner - alleged that the arms dealer "honey trapped and compromised" the BJP MP into leaking information about defence matters. Allen partner alleged that Gandhi was blackmailed with photographs taken with "foreign escorts".
Gandhi rejected these charges, saying he had not met Verma since 2004, when he was a 22-year-old post graduate student in London. He threatened to file a defamation suit against Bhushan and Yadav over the charges.
"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% of any confidential information is shared with the committee."
"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," Varun said.
Allen fell out with Verma - who is facing trial in the 2006 Naval War Room leak case - in 2012. The lawyer wrote to the PM, defence minister, the CBI and the NSA with all the details on August and September this year.
--With PTI inputs