Indian-origin American arrested in wheat import scam

July 18th, 2008 - 11:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Friday arrested a US national of Indian-origin here for fraud in the import of wheat from Australia by the State Trading Corporation (STC) in 1998. “A US national, Niranjan Shah, was arrested today (Friday) in the case relating to the Australian wheat import scam,” a CBI official said.

The CBI re-opened the case July 7 and a day later arrested the then chief managing director (CMD) of the STC, S.M. Dewan, and Delhi-based middleman H.R. Sardana following searches conducted at six places in Delhi and suburban towns of Noida, Faridabad and Gurgaon in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

“Many incriminating documents were seized from the premises, which suggested that large sums of money (were) transferred to the CMD’s accounts from abroad,” a CBI official said.

Among the findings the CBI made was the acquisition of properties and assets including 14 immovable properties worth millions of rupees in Delhi, Noida, Faridabad and Gurgaon.

“Evidence was found of huge investments in shares and bonds valued conservatively at over Rs.15 million in addition to costly household items and three cars,” the official said.

The accused were remanded in CBI custody for eight days.

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

The other bidders were rejected allegedly 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 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 then.

However, a subsequent inquiry by the Australian government on the conduct of 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.

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