Monday, April 25, 2011

Suresh Kalmadi arrested; formal announcement this afternoon

Updated: April 25, 2011 13:24 IST

New Delhi:  Suresh Kalmadi  has been arrested - a formal announcement is likely this afternoon - for allowing and in some cases inducing corruption in the Commonwealth Games that were held in India in October last year.

Mr Kalmadi was interrogated this morning by the CBI for the fourth time about a slate of contracts that saw the most expensive firms being hired for equipment and services.  These include conspiring with a Swiss firm that supplied the Timing-Scoring-Results System (TSR) for the Games at exorbitant rates.

Mr Kalmadi served as the Chairman of the Organising Committee that has been drenched in corruption charges.  Team Kalmadi was allegedly in the habit of handing out contracts to firms that provided equipment or services at exorbitant rates; reasonable bids from other firms were allegedly ignored.

Several of Mr Kalmadi's closest aides have already been arrested- including Lalit Bhanot,  who served as the Secretary General of the Organizing Committee and V K Verma who was its Director General.

While Mr Kalmadi's own role has long been suspect, the CBI believes it finally has enough evidence to prove his corruption.  "Better late than never," was the official response of the BJP to the news of Mr Kalmadi's arrest.  In November, Mr Kalmadi, who is a heavyweight Congress politician from Pune, was fired as the Secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Party.

The Queen's Baton Relay which kickstarted the Games was held in London in September 2009. A London-based firm named AM Films was hired by Mr Kalmadi to provide taxis, portable toilets and massive public TV screens for the ceremony. Mr Kalmadi sanctioned transfers of huge amounts of cash to AM Films and its owner, Ashish Patel, even though there was no signed contract.  Mr Kalmadi later told NDTV that because London officials had requested equipment at the last minute, he did not have the time to process a contract. AM Films charged phenomenal amounts for its services.  The financial track record of Mr Patel proved to be dubious.  And then emails surfaced that showed Mr Kalmadi's close aides instructing Mr Patel for what rates to charge the Committee.  

A team from the CBI has reportedly met with Mr Patel in London, and is encouraging him to turn approver.  It has also discovered that three other bids made by other UK firms for the Queen's Baton Relay function were forged - most likely in an attempt to prove that due process had been followed in considering offers from a series of companies.

Mr Kalmadi's associates had first said that AM Films had been suggested as a potential contractor by the Indian High Commission in London.  It was soon proved that the emails brandished by the Organizing Committee to prove this were doctored.

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