Louis Berger case: Alemao quizzed, Kamat ducks summons

Panaji, July 28 (IANS) Former Goa minister Churchill Alemao on Tuesday was quizzed for three hours by Crime Branch sleuths in connection with the Louis Berger bribery case even as ex-chief minister Digambar Kamat did not appear before the investigators.

“I am innocent. It will be proven,” former Public Works Department minister Alemao told reporters after his questioning.

Kamat, however, did visit the Goa legislative assembly, where he insisted that he had not been issued the summons.

Speaker Rajendra Arlekar, however, confirmed the summons to the former Congress chief minister, who is a legislator from Margao legislative constituency.

“Because the assembly is in session, the police intimated me about the summons as I am the Speaker,” Arlekar told IANS.

Police sources said that Kamat would again be issued summons to report to the Crime Branch on Wednesday.

In a related development, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) project director Anand Wachasundar, arrested on Monday in connection with the bribery case, was remanded in four-day police custody on Tuesday.

Wachasundar is a former principal chief engineer of the PWD.

Alemao, who was questioned in the presence of Superintendent of Police (Crime) Karthik Kashyap, was the PWD minister in the Congress-led coalition government in 2010, when Louis Berger officials allegedly paid him and the then chief minister Kamat, among other officials, a $976,630 bribe.

The money was allegedly given to secure implementation rights of a multi-billion dollar water and sewerage management project funded by the Japanese government.

Top officials of Louis Berger have already pleaded guilty to a New Jersey District Court to offering bribes of $3.9 million to secure contracts in countries such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Kuwait.

While the settlement announced by the US Justice Department did not identify the politicians and officials who were offered bribes, the documents revealed that $976,630 was paid in bribes during 2009-2010 to a Goa minister and other officials.

Louis Berger was part of a consortium that eventually won a contract to execute a multi-billion dollar water and sewerage project in Goa worth Rs.1,031 crore funded by the JICA, which was cleared in 2010 by a Congress-led coalition government.

Police sources, meanwhile, said that a Crime Branch team had contacted the Indian officials of the consultancy firm, who through Saturday to Monday reportedly gave detailed sworn statements about the alleged bribes paid to Kamat as well as Alemao in 2010 to win the JICA contract.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Tuesday commended the elite police unit for doing a “very good job”.

Parsekar did not provide details about the statements given by Louis Berger officials, but appreciated the Crime Branch investigation, saying it was on the right track.

“The Crime Branch is doing a very good job. They have gone to different states to record statements in quick time,” Parsekar said.

The Goa legislative assembly on Monday resolved to hand over the investigation into the bribery allegations to the Central Bureau of Investigation due to the “international ramifications” of the case.


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