Court extends custody of accused in wheat import fraud

July 17th, 2008 - 10:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 17 (IANS) A city court Thursday extended by four days the police custody of former State Trading Corp (STC) chief managing director S.M. Dewan and official H.R.Sardana, who are accused of irregularities in the import of wheat from Australia in 1998. Both were arrested July 9 by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

CBI Special Judge V.K. Maheshwari extended the police remand for both by four days.

Among the findings the CBI made against the two is acquisition of properties and assets, including 14 immovable properties running into millions of rupees in Delhi, Noida, Faridabad and Gurgaon.

Dewan and other officials were allegedly involved in the award of contract to the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) and played a crucial role in the deal.

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

The other bidders were rejected allegedly on frivolous grounds and the contract was awarded to the 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 the contract and the payment of commission, if any, in the deal.

The CBI had filed the closure report in the case in January 2004 because the Australian authorities did not provide the required information.

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

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