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Louis Berger graft case: Bribe was paid, says Goa Police

 Goa Police on Wednesday said prima facie it has come to light that "bribe was paid" by a US firm for a water developmental project in the state.

Panaji: Goa Police on Wednesday said prima facie it has come to light that "bribe was paid" by a US firm for a water developmental project in the state.

"The instance of corruption has been proved in this case through judgement of the US court. There is no doubt that bribe was paid," Inspector General of Police Sunil Garg told reporters here after the state Crime Branch yesterday filed an FIR against an unidentified minister and officials of US-based company Louis Berger under Anti-Corruption Act.

When asked if the FIR was against one minister or more, Garg said, "It is some minister or it can be ministers too."

The investigations are currently at preliminary stage, but the FIR has been filed after going through the documents, including a judgement of the US court, he said.

Preliminary reports of the inquiry are ready and "now police will start summoning and questioning various people," the IG said.

"Summons would be issued to whoever is connected with the case. We will put in our best efforts to investigate this case and for which we will even take the help of Interpol or the Ministry of External Affairs," he said.

Garg ruled out custodial interrogation in the case at this juncture calling it "as premature to ask for such level of investigation."

US-based Louis Berger company has been fined by New Jersey court for bribing Indian officials and a minister to win consultancy for projects in Goa and Guwahati which are under Japanese funding initiative.

When asked whether company officials would be treated as accused or witnesses in the entire case, Garg said the police are exploring all possible angles.

"They can be accused or even witnesses," the IGP said.

The FIR has been registered under IPC Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, against an unknown former Goa minister and Louis Berger officials.

Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar had earlier directed the Crime Branch to carry out a preliminary probe into the bribery scandal and submit a report in two days.

Louis Berger has been charged with bribing Indian officials with several crores to secure two major water developmental projects - one each in Goa and Guwahati.

The consulting firm provides engineering, architecture, construction management, environmental planning and science, and economic development services.

The alleged bribery of USD 9,76,630 for the Goa project included bribe to a minister, the details of which have not been disclosed by the US Department of Justice.

Former Congress Minister Churchill Alemao has denied involvement in the bribery scandal, even as the party yesterday demanded filing of an FIR against those linked to the case.

Alemao, who was PWD Minister in 2009 when the alleged bribery took place, yesterday claimed he had not even heard of the company (Louis Berger).

"I have no role to play in the entire episode (award of contract). The tenders were decided by the engineers (of PWD Department)," said Alemao, who quit Congress after the 2014 Lok Sabha election.