Nishan Kohli, an Indian businessman, has pleaded guilty in a Manhattan court to bribing a UN official of Indian origin to win contracts worth more than USD 50 million for companies he was associated with.
Kohli acknowledged that he provided cash to Sanjaya Bahel, chief of commodity procurement at the United Nations from 1998 to 2003, and a rented luxury condominium in Manhattan near the UN headquarters at a highly discounted rate. He then sold the apartment to Bahel at a price which, prosecutors say, was far below the market price.
Kohli could get up to ten years in prison.
Prosecutors allege that Kohli helped secure contracts for the companies he represented, including Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd, an enterprise owned by the Indian government and Thunderbird Industries, where he was the managing partner.
Kohli's decision to cooperate with the prosecutors could strengthen the case against Bahel who had pleaded not guilty to bribery charges. His trial is expected to begin on May 7.
The New York Times quoted Richard Herman, Bahel's lawyer, as saying his client had accepted no bribes and was "vigorously fighting the allegations of any wrongdoing."
Herman noted that the condominium sale took place two years after Bahel, 56, left his procurement position and said that the contracts in question were awarded through a "sealed bid process."
Bahel has been suspended without pay for four months since an internal United Nations investigation found he had improperly steered contacts toward Kohli's companies.