CBI reopens case of Australian wheat import fraud

July 8th, 2008 - 9:35 pm ICT by IANS  


New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) Reopening a case of alleged irregularities in wheat imports from Australia by the State Trading Corporation (STC) in 1998, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Tuesday conducted searches at six places in Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. “The searches were carried out at the residential premises of the suspected agent involved in the deal, offices of three of his companies besides residential and office premises of the then chief managing director of STC,” a CBI official said.

The chief managing director and the officials were involved in the award of contract to the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) and played a crucial role in the deal.

The CBI had registered the case in September 2001 following the allegation that the decision to import two million tonnes of wheat from AWB was taken even though the procurement and stock position of wheat was quite comfortable in 1998.

The various other bidders were allegedly rejected on frivolous grounds and the contract was awarded to AWB at exorbitant prices.

“During the investigation, a letter rogatory (LR) was sent to Australian authorities seeking information on certain vital aspects like involvement of middlemen in this contract and the payments of commission, if any, in this deal,” the official said.

The premier investigating agency had filed the closure report in the case in January 2004 as Australian authorities did not provide the required information then.

However, a subsequent inquiry by the Australian government on the conduct of the Australian companies involved in the UN Oil for Food Programme for Iraq revealed that AWB had paid commission in the sale of wheat to India in 1998.

“The pending LR was reopened by Australian authorities and searches carried out by a Joint Task Force constituted by the Australian government for probing the matter,” the official said.

“These searches resulted in recovery of certain vital documents indicating payment of commission by the AWB to a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands to the tune of $2.5 million,” the official added.

After scrutinizing the documents sent by Australian authorities, the CBI July 7 filed an application in a city court for reopening the case and further investigating the case, which was allowed.

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