CBI takes over Louis Berger scam probe

Spl correspondent
 NEW DELHI, Sept 30 – In a move that may have wider political ramifications for the ruling BJP government in the State, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over the probe into the Louis Berger bribery scam in Assam on the orders of the Gauhati High Court, and registered an FIR, official sources said.Unidentified officials of the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority and US-based multinational company Louis Berger International and the Assam government have been booked on charges of criminal conspiracy and corruption, according to the CBI FIR.

The US-based firm had admitted that it had paid incentives to the governments of Assam and Goa to secure contracts as consultants in water supply projects. The name of a senior State BJP leader had cropped up due to his alleged involvement with the Louis Berger scam.

On September 2, the Gauhati High Court had directed the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate into the high-profile bribery case. The court, in its order, directed the CBI to take over the investigation from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and bring the probe to its logical conclusion.

“The case diary shall be submitted by the CID in a sealed cover to the custody of the Registrar General of the Gauhati High Court, who shall hand over the same, after completing necessary formalities, to the CBI,” the court ruled, while directing the Assam government and its police to cooperate fully with the CBI in the investigation.

The court had expressed apprehension that as the CID is under the State government and since high-ranking officials are involved in awarding the contract after taking huge amounts of bribe, the investigating agency may not be in a position to act independently to bring the investigation to a fair conclusion.

Under Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Court has the power to direct an investigation by the CBI, but the power can be exercised only in cases where there is sufficient material to come to the prime facie conclusion that there is a need of such an investigation.

The US-based company Louis Berger pleaded guilty before a New Jersey court to paying bribes in Assam and Goa.

Earlier on January 6, the CID of Assam Police probing the Louis Berger case had told the Gauhati High Court that it was in touch with the International Police Cooperation Cell of the CBI to facilitate a video conference with the Department of Justice, United States of America. In an affidavit filed by the Special Superintendent of Police of CID, the investigating agency informed the court that Washington DC had earlier agreed to share the relevant information with them (CID) and also requested to arrange an initial video talk.

The CID had registered a case (41/15) in 2015 following a complaint from one Bhaben Handique and two others. Handique had also filed a public interest litigation alleging that the investigation into the case has been tardy.

The court had directed the CID to submit the status and feasibility of the video conference in four weeks’ time.

Source : http://assamtribune.com