Panaji: As the investigation into the Louis Berger bribery case, involving a major water developmental project in the state gathers steam, the Goa Police on Friday arrested an alleged hawala operator while the Enforcement Directorate lodged an FIR relating to money laundering in the case.
In a related development, a Goa Court extended till August 12 the interim protection from arrest for former Congress Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, during whose tenure the alleged scam, involving US-based consultancy firm Louis Berger took place.
In the fourth arrest in the scam, police apprehended alleged hawala operator Raychand Soni. Dubai-based Soni was arrested here after his statement was recorded before a Judicial Magistrate, Superintendent of Police (Crime Branch) Kartik Kashyap said but declined to divulge further details.
Another senior police officer, however, alleged that Soni was involved in transferring the money through hawala (illegal channel) means within the country.
"During the interrogation we had managed to track the route through which the money was brought in India and then how it was circulated," the officer said.
Soni was being questioned by Crime Branch for the last few days along with another hawala operator, he added.
Meanwhile, ED filed an FIR relating to money laundering to probe charges of bribing Indian officials for securing the water project. The document names an unspecified number of unknown former Ministers and others.
"ED Goa has registered enforcement case information register (ECIR) in M/s Louis Berger bribery case against Ministers in Government in Goa during the year 2010 and others. The FIR is filed under Prevention of Money Laundering Act," said a senior Goa-based official of the Central agency, which is looking into the financial angle of the scandal.
Crime Branch has already arrested three people, including former PWD Minister Churchill Alemao. Police have also questioned Kamat who has moved a local court for anticipatory bail.
In a relief to Kamat, who headed the previous Congress Ministry when the pay-off for securing consultancy for the project allegedly took place, District Judge BP Deshpande extended the interim protection granted to him from arrest till August 12. The 61-year-old Congress leader had moved the court for anticipatory bail on August 4, fearing arrest after being questioned twice by Crime Branch.
Apart from Alemao, who was yesterday remanded to four-day police custody by a court here, former director of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-aided project for Goa Anand Wachasunder and Louis Berger's ex-Vice President Berger Satyakam Mohanty have been arrested in the case.
The scandal involves the New Jersey-based consultancy firm allegedly doling out bribes to win the consultancy for a water project in Goa.