Obama’s Indian-American info czar goes on leave amid FBI probe

March 13th, 2009 - 9:58 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 13 (IANS) After just a week on the job, President Barack Obama’s Indian-American info czar Vivek Kundra is said to have gone on leave amid an FBI probe that resulted in a search of his former office.

Kundra went on leave after federal agents arrested an Indian-American businessman and a Washington DC government official on corruption charges Thursday and searched the offices of the capital city’s chief technology officer as part of a corruption probe.

The raid came a week after Kundra, former director of the agency responsible for overseeing the city’s telecommunications infrastructure, was named as the White House chief information officer. But CNN cited a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation as saying that Kundra is not involved in the case

Kundra is taking a leave of absence until further notice from his post at the Office of Management and Budget until more details become known about the FBI investigation, the news channel said citing a White House official.

Yusuf Acar, a contracting officer for Washington’s city government, and Sushil Bansal, a former city employee, are accused of swindling the city out of several million dollars by inflating purchase orders and billing the city for work by “ghost” employees of Bansal’s companies. They made initial appearances in federal court Thursday.

Both are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering, while Acar faces separate charges of wire fraud and conflict of interest, according to court papers.

At the court hearing, Acar was ordered held without bond pending a hearing Tuesday. Prosecutors said $70,000 in cash was found during a search of Acar’s Washington home and that he posed a serious flight risk.

Bansal of Dunn Loring, Virginia, was released but was ordered not to conduct overseas financial transactions or leave the Washington metropolitan area. Bansal is due back in court April 21, and prosecutors said they were hopeful that a plea agreement could be reached in his case.

Acar, a 40-year-old native of Turkey, worked under Kundra. But Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs would not say whether the White House knew the investigation was under way when it named Kundra, but called the case “a serious matter.”

Bansal, who turns 42 next week, is a former city employee and the founder and chief executive of Advanced Integrated Technologies Corp.

The company has offices in Washington and India and did more than $13 million in business with the District of Columbia government in the past five years, according to court documents. In August Bansal was named entrepreneur of the year by the Association of Indians in America.

The FBI worked with another employee in the city’s technology office, who was in on the scheme and secretly recorded conversations with Acar and Bansal as part of the investigation.

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