Louis Berger probe: Bribes camouflaged as engineering terms

Panaji: Shedding new light on the manner in which money for bribes was requisitioned in the Louis Berger case, Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said that a code word related to engineering was used as a camouflage for bribery demands.

Addressing a meeting of party workers near Porvorim late on Saturday, Parsekar said that the repeated usage of the word "drawings" found in messages between those involved in the Louis Berger deal had monetary implications.

"In this investigation, a word which came to my attention was 'drawings'. Four drawings, six drawings. Drawings (is an) engineering technical term, which is why when you say drawing no one would doubt," Parsekar said, adding that the investigators have identified several SMSs, where the word has been used.

These messages, he said, had been zeroed in during the Goa Police Crime Branch probe into the international bribery scandal in which two senior Congress politicians are linked and has seen one arrest of an official already.

Top officials of Louis Berger have already pleaded guilty to a New Jersey District Court to offering bribes of $3.9 million to secure contracts in countries such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Kuwait.

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

Louis Berger was part of a consortium that eventually won a contract to execute a multi-billion dollar water and sewerage project in Goa worth Rs.1,031 crore funded by the Japan International Co-operation Agency.

Congress legislator Digambar Kamat, who was chief minister in 2010 has already been questioned, along with former public works department minister Churchill Alemao, who served in Kamat cabinet at the time.

While patting the Crime Branch officials for conducting the swift probe, Parsekar also confirmed that the Louis Berger bribes did reach Goan shores, but did not elaborate further.

"If thieves need to be caught, one needs to speak less. I appreciate the police, which is otherwise the butt of ridicule. In order to crack the Louis Berger case, our police went to three places, Jaipur, Gurgaon and Chandigarh, picked up those they wanted to, recorded their statements and then recorded them in front of the magistrate," he said.

He, however, expressed confidence that the probe would unearth more details about the scandal soon.

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