CBI raids Kalmadi in hunt for CWG tainted money (Intro Roundup)

Friday, December 24, 2010

NEW DELHI/PUNE/MUMBAI - The CBI Friday seized stacks of documents, laptops and computer discs after raiding homes and premises linked to Commonwealth Games chief organizer Suresh Kalmadi in Delhi, Pune and Mumbai as part of a crackdown to unearth corruption that has already led to the arrest of three of his colleagues.

After some eight hours of extensive searches, including in the Games Organising Committee office in the heart of Delhi, Kalmadi insisted that he was innocent and was ready to face any investigation over charges of financial wrongdoing in the conduct of the Oct 3-14 Games.

Officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) began their well-coordinated search operations just after 7 a.m. in the three cities, with the teams in Pune and Mumbai led by officers from Delhi.

A seven-member squad carefully scrutinized the New Delhi home of Kalmadi, a Congress MP from Pune who also heads the Indian Olympic Association, CBI spokesperson R.K. Gaur told IANS.

He said the CBI would look into all aspects of the Commonwealth Games. “The investigators want to know how the Games were organised and planned, how the contracts were awarded and how the work was supervised.”

He declined to say if the CBI seized anything incriminating. “Important documents seized are being scrutinized,” he said.

Official sources in Pune said Kalmadi’s house off Karve road was raided. His close aide Manoj Bhore’s house in the city was also searched. The residence of Kalmadi’s brother located on the elite Pochkanwala Road in Mumbai’s Worli was also raided.

The CBI is probing the alleged irregularities in the Games Organising Committee’s contract of Rs.107 crore spent on overlays, official sources said.

The charges against Kalmadi include overspending - by crores of rupees - in holding the mega Games that drew some 7,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories and which were marred by controversies even before they began — over shoddy work, delays and corruption.

“I have always said we had a very successful Commonwealth Games. I am ready, the Organising Committee is ready for any investigation,” Kalmadi told reporters outside his New Delhi residence.

But Kalmadi underlined that he was only concerned with “three-to-four percent”, or Rs.1,500 crore, of the entire amount allocated for the Games, implying others too should be questioned.

The searches come amid reports of missing key files containing information on tendering, budgetary allocation and contract details.

Asked about it, Kalmadi suggested they may have been taken away by some other official agency.

The CBI has filed three first information reports (FIRs) related to the alleged irregularities. Three of Kalmadi’s aides - Organising Committee’s Joint Director T.S. Darbari, Deputy Director General Sanjay Mohindroo and former treasurer M. Jayachandran — have been arrested.

The CBI had earlier complained that Kalmadi and deputy Lalit Bhanot were obstructing the investigation and should be removed from the Organising Committee.

The searches triggered bickering between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The whole country knows there is a scam of more than Rs.70,000 crore ($15.5 billion) as far as the Commonwealth Games are concerned. The CBI action is too little, too late,” BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

Congress’ Jayanthi Natrajan retorted: “The CBI doesn’t work to anybody’s agenda. They are pursuing a particular inquiry. We don’t expect the BJP to understand how law takes its course. Everything is political expediency for them.”

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