Delhi: In one of the biggest exposes of 2016, it has been revealed that in order to bag tender for biometric facial recognition device, Cryptometrics, a company in Canada, gave kickbacks to officers of Air India.
Biometric facial recognition device is used for recognition of faces of passengers.
In an exclusive report, Zee Media Corp has learnt that on 24 February 2006, Air India had issued a Request for Proposal for the device and the tender for the same given by 20 companies including Canada's Cryptometrics.
Later, it was revealed in order to get the tender, Cryptometrics paid kickbacks to Air India officials through a person named Nazir Karigar.
Nazir is an NRI and a businessman in Canada.
His closeness with Air India officials can be ascertained from the fact that Nazir had the full copy of the tender with him on 28 December 2005 itself. Whereas Air India had issued the tender on 24 February 2006. This essentially means that the businessman had full information about the tender from beforehand.
Meanwhile, in order to keep Cryptometrics ahead in the process of tender, four lakh 50 thousand dollars or approximately three crore rupees was transferred in the Mumbai account of Nazir.
There was a contract for the transaction of the above money. It had been decided that 40 lakh dollars or 26 crore 64 lakh rupees was to be given to then civil aviation minister Praful Patel. It was written in the contract that as the deal moves forward, the kickbacks will also be given accordingly.
However, the contract could not reach its logical conclusion and left behind a few unanswered questions.
(We would like to clarify that just because someone's name is in the papers does not mean that he is hundred percent guilty. But doubts and questions are definitely raised.)
Zee News team has in its possession numerous documents regarding the alleged scam and has studied it thoroughly.
Some of the main characters of the scam are as follows:
- Nazir, who has claimed to have met Patel and delivered him money.
- Air India, with whom the deal was to be finalised and which was worth 10 crore 50 lakh dollars or approximately 698 crore rupees. 30 percent of the deal was to be given allegedly to Patel and Air India officials through Nazir. (The money that was given to Nazir's account resulted in Cryptometrics being selected in the tender process.)
- Another important character of the deal was vice president of Cryptometrics Canada, Robert Bell. There were numerous e mail exchanges between Nazir and Bell.
- Also, former Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gafur was director, security of Air India and is said to be an important character of the whole deal.
- Apart from the above, the role of the then CMD Vasudevan Tulsidas also has to be looked at carefully.
- Plus, Captain Mascarenhas' name also figures. He was Air India's deputy director, security then.
One of the most important documents in the whole matter is the verdict of superior court of justice, Ontario.
In this verdict, one NRI Nazir Karigar has been found to be guilty of giving bribes to officials of Air India.
Moreover, in this order, Patel's name has also cropped up. But whether the bribe money reached him or not, is not clear in the verdict.
As per the verdict, Cryptometrics company gave bribes through Nazir so that it could bag tender of supplying facial recognition technology from Air India.
E mails of Bell's was placed before the court in Canada as proof.
As per Bell's statement in court, Nazir had contacted him in June 2005. Nazir apparently told Bell that many officers in Air India know him and that they were looking for face detection software. Later, in September 2005 Nazir and his associate Mehul Shah met Bell in Ottawa, wherein the deal was struck that whatever revenue Cryptometrics will get from Air India, 30 percent of it will be given to Nazir and his men.
Following this, on 19 January 2006 Air India's director security Gafur and his associated Mascarenhas visited office of Cryptometrics company in Canada. This means that they made the trip before the tender was released by Air India.
Then on Nazir's request, Cryptometrics formed a new company in India named 'Cryptometrics India'. Nazir was made its executive director.
It has been further revealed that on 16 April 2006, there was meeting in Mumbai in which Bell and Nazir decided as to which Air India officials would be given how many shares.
As per the plan, Cryptometrics had been shortlisted by 3 August 2006.
It has been revealed by the tender committee note of 12 September 2006 that only 2 companies were shortlisted from 20 companies. There were - IPCON, Canada and Cryptometrics Canada.
To be noted is the fact that IPCON, Canada was Nazir's company only and was used by him to apply for tender so that a single bidder situation does not arise.
However, it is written in the court order that it was not confirmed whether the bribe money was delivered to Air India officials from Nazir's account or not.
Meanwhile, Cryptometrics was putting pressure on Nazir to quickly seal the deal or return the money. The company had started looking for a new middleman.
On the other hand, in a written clarification sent to Zee News, Praful Patel has said that the allegations against him were baseless because the deal was never finalised and the tender was terminated.
He also said that such tenders are looked at by Air India and the ministry is not sent such files.