Canadian firm denies bribing Kerala politician (Lead)

June 12th, 2009 - 5:11 pm ICT by IANS  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, June 12 (IANS) Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin, at the centre of a $60 million corruption scandal that has created political turmoil in India’s Kerala state and divided its ruling Left party, has denied the charges of bribery and termed the accusations “offensive”.

In a chargesheet filed Thursday, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has named the Montreal-based company along with the Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M) Kerala secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and others in the alleged bribery scandal.

The chargesheet alleges that the Canadian company was wrongfully given contracts for renovation of three power projects in 1997 when Vijayan was the power minister of Kerala.

“We have done nothing wrong since the beginning of the project,” Gillian MacCormack, SNC-Lavalin vice president for global public relations, told IANS.

Refusing to use the word “bribery”, she said: “We have absolutely nothing to hide. In fact, we are very proud of our 50-year-old relationship with India and our numerous contributions to its economic development.”

The corruption scandal has exposed the rift between Vijayan and Kerala Chief Minister Achuthanandan, and given rise to calls for the latter’s resignation.

While the CPI-M has come out in support of the tainted leader and said his prosecution is politically motivated, the chief minister has supported the state governor’s decision to take action against his party colleague.

Defending her company, MacCormack said SNC-Lavalin has always executed its projects “properly and professionally and in compliance with Indian law”.

“We did rehabilitate three power plants on budget and on schedule in Kerala, and we have it in writing from our client that it is pleased with our work,” she said.

MacCormack said her company even helped the Kerala authorities build a cancer hospital, which has been operating for several years now.

Emphasising that the company had a clearly laid-out statement on this issue, she said: “It remains unchanged since it was first drafted several years ago.”

MacCormack added that her company was never approached by anyone over the alleged accusations “we keep reading about”.

“Nobody has ever contacted us… we find the innuendos and accusations against our company, its representatives and its good reputation offensive, inaccurate and totally unacceptable.”

Denying the accusations in the Indian media, she said SNC-Lavalin looks “forward to continuing to work with our Indian clients in the positive environment which has always characterised our presence in the country for the past 50 years”.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at gurmukh.s@ians.in)

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