The involvement of a Navy officer who had been recommended to be cashiered from service for embezzlement in 2011 in the skydiving death of a Bangalore woman has left the defence ministry shocked. The Navy is likely to be asked for an explanation, with questions being raised about its failure to keep a tab on the officer’s activities.
Commander N Rajesh Kumar, who was arrested by the Tamil Nadu police following the woman’s death, is a serving officer posted in Vizag. Officially on leave, he is believed to have been illegally conducting skydiving camps throughout the country. Kumar had been recommended for two years’ rigorous imprisonment in 2011 after allegations of corruption and embezzlement against him — amounting to Rs 22 lakh — were first reported by The Indian Express in 2009. The officer had also been recommended for cashiering, but had obtained a stay order from the high court.
Kumar had headed the Navy’s adventure team before he was court-martialled, and the high-flying group that had carried out record-breaking jumps had come under a cloud following the case against him.
Since Kumar continues to be in uniform, he is barred from engaging in any commercial activity. However, sources said, he along with a core team of three-four people had been conducting skydiving courses, keeping their identities couched. Kumar is believed to be the main promoter behind the Indian Skydiving and Parachute Association (ISPA) that was conducting the jumps near Salem in which the woman died. The other organisations with which he was associated, said sources, were Dreamcatchers and Kakini.
In the embezzlement case, Kumar had been tried as the main conspirator, with subordinate Lt Commander Mahesh Birjdar also being named. The Commander was found guilty of submitting false bills, forging fake quotations from aviation firms for skydiving runs and conspiring with Birajdar to “defraud the state exchequer”.