Kalmadi in CBI net for CWG graft (Intro Roundup)

April 25th, 2011 - 10:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, April 25 (IANS) Suresh Kalmadi, the former chief of the 2010 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, was arrested Monday by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for alleged financial irregularities in the run-up to India’s biggest international sporting event.

Immediately after the arrest, he was suspended from the ruling Congress. Kalmadi could lose his post as president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) too with Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken saying that the IOA chief “represents the country and somebody who is chargesheeted cannot serve the purpose”.

Kalmadi, an MP from Pune, was arrested after nearly day-long questioning by the CBI at its headquarters here for alleged criminal conspiracy and overspending of public money in holding the Oct 3-14 Games last year.

He will be produced before the special CBI court Tuesday and till then, would stay on the third floor of the newly-constructed CBI Headquarters at the CGO complex in Lodhi road in central Delhi, CBI officials told IANS.

Also arrested Monday were two more officials of the Games panel, Sujit Lal and A.S.V. Prasad. Lal was deputy director general (procurement) and Prasad was joint direct general (sports) in the committee.

This brings to 13 the number of past and present organising committee officials who have been arrested so far. Among them are Lalit Bhanot, a former secretary general of the organising committee, and V.K. Verma, who was its director general. The other officials are T.S. Darbari, Sanjay Mohindroo, M Jayachandran, Shekhar Deorukhkar, K. Udai Kumar Reddy, Binu Nanu, Sandeep Wadhwa and Praveen Bakshi.

“He (Kalmadi) entered the CBI headquarters at around 10.30 a.m. and was questioned. He was subsequently arrested,” the official added.

CBI spokesperson Dharni Mishra told reporters that Kalmadi was arrested for buying TSR (timing scoring and result) equipment from a Swiss firm, Swiss Timing, at inflated price of Rs.141 crore for the event.

A few hours later, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi announced Kalmadi’s suspension from the party. “The disciplinary committee of the party has suspended Suresh Kalmadi,” he told reporters here. He was removed in November last year as secretary of the Congress’s parliamentary party after the Games following uproar over mismanagement and corruption allegations.

Misra said Kalmadi was arrested for “conspiracy to favour a private firm in Switzerland”.

The CBI official said the contract led to a loss of Rs.95 crore as a Spain-based firm, MSL Spain, had bid for around Rs.50 crore for the same equipment. “We started working on the trail after we found out that the same company (MSL Spain) was given the license of the TSR systems in the Guangzhou Asian Games recently. This was surprising,” Misra told a packed press conference.

The officials added that investigations revealed that members of the tenders evaluation committee were coerced to disqualify other bidders.

Moreover, the Indian representatives of the favoured supplier Swiss Timing were in regular contact with the arrested OC officials much before the tender was awarded.

Mishra said the CBI, during its probe, found that every contract had Kalmadi’s signatures, and were given by “wrongfully restricting and eliminating competition from other suppliers in a pre-mediated manner”.

This was the fourth time Kalmadi, a high-profile sports administrator, was interrogated by the CBI.

While Kalmadi was being questioned, his lawyer Hitesh Jain continued to maintain that “his arrest was speculation”.

The Commonwealth Games that Kalmadi oversaw was the biggest sporting event India organised in 28 years after the Asian Games in 1982. When India for the CWG in 2003, the Games were expected to cost Rs 1,899 crore. However, the cost rose to Rs.30,000 crore (Rs.300 billion/$6.8 billion).

The successful Games drew some 7,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories but were marred by controversies even before the Games began — over shoddy work, delays and graft.

The ruling Congress denied the opposition charge that there had been a delay in prosecuting the accused or anyone was being shielded.

Party spokesman Manish Tewari said: “The UPA government has let the law take its own course. It has showed sensitivity to the issue in direct contrast to the BJP.”

On expected lines, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) welcomed the arrests but said it was too late.

“He (Kalmadi) is only the tip of the ice berg,” BJP chief Nitin Gadkari told reporters.

BJP leader Prakash Javadekar demanded action “against Delhi Chief Minister (Sheila Dikshit) and other senior bureaucrats involved in the loot”.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) also reacted similarly. “Why they have not taken action against the big people involved,” Brinda Karat asked.

Dikshit, whose government oversaw the infrastructure development related to the Games, refused to comment.

Kalmadi was earlier summoned for questioning April 15 but was abroad. He was then called April 19, but could not make it. He again failed to appear before the CBI April 20, saying he was unwell.

Kalmadi was previously questioned in connection with alleged irregularities in hiring AM Films and AM Car and Van Hire Limited during the Queen’s Baton Relay in 2009.

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