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Louis Berger bribery case: False case against me, claims ex-Goa CM Digambar Kamat

Kamat said he has nothing to do with the bribery case as he was not holding the top post when the water project was conceived and the related contract signed.

By: PTI | Panaji |
Updated: August 13, 2015 6:53:09 pm
Former Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat The scandal took place in 2010 when Digambar Kamat was Chief Minister heading a Congress-led Government but came to light this year.

Former Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat on Tursday said he has nothing to do with the Louis Berger bribery case as he was not holding the top post when the water project at the centre of the scandal was conceived and the related contract signed.

Kamat made the submission through his lawyer Surendra Dessai during a hearing on his anticipatory bail plea here.

District Judge B P Deshpande, who heard the arguments by the prosecution and defence counsel during the day-long proceedings, adjourned the hearing for Friday.

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The Congress leader has been booked by the Crime Branch in the case which related to US-based consultancy firm Louis Berger allegedly paying bribes to officials and a Minister to secure contract for a water and sewerage project in the coastal state being implemented with Japanese assistance.

The scandal took place in 2010 when Kamat was Chief  Minister heading a Congress-led Government but came to light this year. Police have already arrested four people, including then Public Works Department Minister Churchill Alemao, and questioned Kamat twice.

Dessai said Kamat was not the Chief Minister when the project was conceived between 2004-05 and a consultancy contract for it signed in 2007. “There is more to it than meets the eye. I had nothing to do with the entire scope of (project) negotiation,” he said on behalf of Kamat.

The defence counsel said statements recorded against his client had been doctored. “They catch hold of an old employee (of Louis Berger) and doctor his statements submitted before a Magistrate.”

Dessai said the entire case is “made up” and smacks of “political vendetta” against Kamat with a possible motive to  finish his political career. He said the FIR lacks in clarity and it was like “throwing stones in the darkness”.

“The complaint is against one Minister. Louis Berger (before a US Court) talked about (giving bribe) to one Minister. Where from a second Minister has come into the picture no one knows. They say I am the second Minister,” he said, referring to Kamat.

The lawyer said Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) regulates every project it finances and the same was done in the Goa scheme too.

“Every pie which is spent on the project is scrutinised.  Neither the Chief Minister nor any other Minister is involved in this process,” Dessai said.

Dessai pointed out that the committee, formed in 2007 to decide on giving consultancy contract, was headed by current Public Works Department Minister Sudin Dhavalikar, a leader of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) who was then part of the Congress-led government.

“When I (Kamat) had no role to play, there is no question  of anyone coming to meet me (and discuss issues related to the project),” he added.

Special Public Prosecutor G P Kirtani said the FIR was based on the American court judgement which was uploaded on its website.

“Crime Branch was asked to investigate based on the  order. It is expected that we shall soon receive the documents from authorities concerned,” he said.

Attempts are being made to get former Louis Berger  official James McClung (who has pleaded guilty in the US court of paying bribes to officials and an unnamed Goa Minister) for questioning by Goa Police, the prosecution lawyer said.

Kirtani insisted that Kamat was at the helm of affairs (Chief Minister) when the consultancy documents were signed.  The work order was issued in 2009.

There is evidence on record which implicates Kamat in criminal conspiracy, he said, adding the Congress leader may threaten witnesses or tamper with evidences if he is granted anticipatory bail. “We also have to recover the bribe amount from the applicant (Kamat).”

“When Crime Branch is making steady progress in  investigation, why would government hand over the probe to somebody else?” Kirtani said, rubbishing the claims of defence that government wants to bring in CBI.

The investigation is getting hampered only because Kamat is not available for custodial interrogation, he said, opposing the anticipatory bail application.

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