Congress dares Goa government to lodge FIR in bribery case

Panaji, July 21 (IANS) The Goa Congress on Tuesday dared the BJP-led coalition government in the state to file within 48 hours a police complaint in the Louis Berger bribery case.

The opposition party also said that the delay in handing over the case to the CBI was due to the fact that the New Jersey-US based firm had struck dealings with the present BJP-led government too.

The state police Crime Branch, meanwhile, was questioning a key official connected to the water and sewerage project, for which the consultancy firm allegedly paid bribe.

“We give the BJP government in Goa 48 hours to file a First Information Report as well as speed up the Crime Branch probe. The FIR has already been delayed. If the FIR is not filed by Thursday, we will come out on the streets and protest,” Congress spokesperson Sunil Kawthankar said.

The delay in handing the case over to the Central Bureau of Investigation was due to the fact that the tainted company also struck deals with the present BJP government in Goa, Kawthankar said at a press conference at the state party headquarters in Panaji.

Top officials of Louis Berger have already pleaded guilty to offering bribes to the tune of $3.9 million to secure contracts in countries like India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Kuwait.

While the settlement announced by the US Justice Department did not identify the politicians and officials who were offered the bribes, the documents revealed that $976,630 (around Rs.6.3 crore) in bribes was paid during 2009-2010 to a Goa minister and other officials.

Former Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat and former Public Works Department minister Churchill Alemao could come under the probe ambit, sources said. Both Kamat and Alemao have denied the allegation.

Louis Berger was part of a consortium that eventually won a contract to execute a water and sewerage project in Goa, funded by the Japan International Co-Operation Agency (JICA).

The Crime Branch on Tuesday evening summoned Anand Wachasundar, JICA project director and former head of Goa Public Works Department.

Wachasundar, who offered no comments while entering the Crime Branch office near Panaji, was being questioned by officials at the time of filing the report.

The Congress has already demanded the immediate sacking of Wachasundar.

“Wachasundar has been handling the compromised JICA project for the last several years. He should be sacked immediately. But Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has instead asked the officer to submit a report to the government on the project,” Kawthankar said.

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