ibnlive » India

Oct 15, 2009 at 01:18am IST

US firms bribed Navy, PSU officials: Envoy

New Delhi: Just when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government had buried the ghost of Bofor's kickbacks, a letter from the Indian Ambassador to the United States of America is sure to bring some more embarrassment.

The letter states how American companies paid huge kickbacks to Indian public sector units, Indian Railways, Maharashtra State Electricity Corporation and even the Indian Navy.

Indian Ambassador in Washington Meera Shankar's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Principal Secretary TKA Nair was written in May 2009.

The Ambassador has listed out seven cases of how government officials in India have been bribed by US-based companies

According the Corrupt Practices Act in the United States all US companies must provide details of the illegal payments they make in foreign countries and the list is a big one.

On January 9, 2009, Mario Civino of a firm called Control Companies pleaded guilty for illegally paying $1 million $ to the Maharashtra State Electricity Corporation.

Then on February 14, the Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies (WABTEC) paid off employees of the Indian Railways $137,400.

More than two years ago on October 1, 2007, York International Corporation confirmed middlemen paying Indian Navy officials upto $132,500 for getting contracts.

An official in the Central Insecticide Board, too, has been named as a recipient to expedite registrations.

The revelations have come as a severe embarrassment for the government.

"The matter will be looked into," was all Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said, "Our Ambassador in the United States might have sent a report. We will certainly be looking into it."

The matter has now been referred to the Enforcement directorate to divert the flak.

The UPA Government says it will act against the officers if there are credible evidence.

But it may find it difficult to defend itself against the political flak from the Opposition.

CPI General Secretary D Raja said that the Government must initiate strong measures against the accused officials and not just make false claims.

"The Government should initiate strong measures against the officials. Already there are reports that the CBI has initiated some probe. The Government should come out clean. Even the revelation has taken such a long time," said D Raja.

"I raised the issue of Dow Chemicals bribing senior indian officials in the year 2007. I was assured by Sharad Pawar in Parliament that a CBI enquiry is underway. Why is it that today the Agriculture Ministry is saying that they are still awaiting the CBI report? How many years does it take? This Government is not serious about taking any action and it is business as usual as far as bribe taking is concerned. We demand an immediate and time bound enquiry and immediate blacklisting of the US companies"
— CPM politburo member Brinda Karat to CNN-IBN

(With inputs from Sumit Pande and Veeraraghav TM)