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Louis Berger case: detailed chargesheet puts Kamat & Alemao in hot water

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 5:24 IST

The chargesheet

  • The Goa Crime Branch has filed a detailed chargesheet at a special Court in Panaji
  • It has moved court seeking permission for narco tests on ex-CM Kamat and minister Alemao

The scam

  • The case relates to high-level bribery in a state water supply and sewage project
  • The chargesheet states that Kamat and Alemao accepted huge sums from Louis Berger

More in the story

  • How the scam unfolded: details of Hawala operations
  • A key witness to secret meetings emerges. What are his accusations?

The Louis Berger storm is back, it's bigger than ever, and it's threatening to drown former CM Digambar Kamat and PWD minister Churchill Alemao.

The scam rocked Goa two-and-a-half months ago. At the heart of it were alleged payments of bribes by the American firm to ministers and officials, in order to win a contract.

The Goa Crime Branch filed a detailed chargesheet at the Special Anti-Corruption Court in Panaji last week. It has moved the sessions court, seeking permission for narco analyses of key accused Kamat, Alemao and fellow accused Anand Wachasundar.

Details of the chargesheet

According to a senior Crime Branch officer, the dubious transactions were carried out from a crockery shop. This was a front used by people involved in the case to meet each other and exchange money in plastic bags.

"We have got information about the places and timings of secret meetings between the accused in the case. The investigators have found out how Hawala couriers brought in money in plastic bags, and even the fights among the accused over the money. They used a crockery shop in Panaji as a front to carry out illegal activities," the officer said.

"The shop, Midland Collection, was owned and operated by alleged Hawala operator Raichand Manrupji Soni, who is out on conditional bail."

When the scam allegedly took place, Kamat was the Goa CM while Alemao was the PWD minister

He also said some of these secret meetings were held at the official and personal residences of Kamat and Alemao.

The Crime Branch has alleged that approximately $980,000 was paid as a bribe to the former ministers of Goa.

Officials say that Soni and an employee helped in the transfer of bribe money from the sources to the beneficiaries in Goa. The money was sourced from outside Goa.

The ministers' alleged plot

The gist of the scam, according to the cops, is this - Kamat and Alemao tried to take control of the state's multi-crore water supply and sewage project, which was being funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The government had appointed a consortium comprising four consultants, including Louis Berger, to monitor the implementation of the Rs 1,031 crore project. The consortium was appointed in 2009 and included two Japanese firms, Louis Berger, and an Indian firm, Shah Technical Consultants.

"The duo initially tried to take full control over the project. But when things started going out of control and they thought that their goal can't be reached, they tried to jeopardise the project," a source said.

"The disagreement over the size of the bribe was the root cause of the differences between the politicians and the officials of Louis Berger. The fight were so intense that at one point of time, Alemao even abused a Louis Berger employee for offering him a bribe beneath his stature."

The key accused

The Crime Branch investigated the matter for three months before filing the chargesheet. "We have explored all the possible angles and leads we got during the investigations. Employees of the Goa office of Louis Berger and the Indian firm in the consortium were questioned as part of investigations," a source said.

Kamat has been mentioned as a suspect in the chargesheet, but he has denied any involvement in the scam. Alemao, on the other hand, is accused number 1. He is currently at Colvale Jail after being arrested on 5 August.

JICA project director Wachasundar was instrumental in negotiating with and paying the money to the former ministers. Wachasundar was arrested on 27 July and is currently in judicial custody.

"The amount was delivered to the former ministers at their residences in four instalments of Rs 15 to 60 lakh. The cash was delivered in plastic bags in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000.

"During questioning, one of the employees of Louis Berger told us that the bribes were paid under the supervision and as per the directions of former senior vice president, Louis Berger India, James McClung and his deputy Satyakam Mohanty," the official said.

Mohanty is currently out on conditional bail.

Alemao had abused key witness

The entire controversy surfaced after McClung confessed to violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as part of the company's wrongdoings.

While confessing to the violations in a US court, McClung agreed on a penalty of $17.1 million to settle the matter of bribing officials in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Kuwait.

Ministers accepted Rs 50-60 lakh in plastic bags each time they met Berger officials at their homes

The Crime Branch has also charged that Malladi Sivarama Prasad, a former manager of the Goa office of Louis Berger, during questioning, disclosed details of the company's meetings with Kamat and Alemao.

Prasad told investigators that he was with the regional director of the company, Sanjay Jindal, on two visits to Kamat. The duo handed Rs 50-60 lakh in cash to Kamat each time they met.

This witness has described the meetings in minute detail, with timings and even the clothes that Kamat had been wearing.

He also says he met Alemao with Prasanna Shah, the director of Shah Technical Consultants. They paid Rs 60 lakh to him during the first meeting.

On the second occasion, Prasad accompanied Wachasundar to Alemao's guest house at Altino. At this meeting, Alemao claimed the amount was short by Rs 40,000 and abused Prasad. According to the police, these meetings took place in 2011.

First published: 6 October 2015, 10:16 IST
Ashwin Aghor @CatchNews

Journalist based in Mumbai.