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Indian official in million-dollar UN scam

india Updated: Sep 02, 2006 10:18 IST
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A UN official from India is alleged to have steered millions of dollars in contract to a company owned by the Indian government in exchange for favours that included low-rent apartments in New York, according to a UN internal investigation.

A confidential report on the investigation, made available to a news agency, claims that the official, Sanjaya Bahel, used his relationship with an Indian businessman and his son to steer deals to the Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) with which they were associated.

TCIL is purported to have received more than $100 million in UN contracts between 1999 and 2004 during the time (1998-2003) when Bahel was the chief of commodity procurement at the UN.

On Thursday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said an unidentified male staffer had been suspended and charged with misconduct. The staffer turned out to be Bahel.

Both Bahel and TCIL have strongly refuted the charges. Bahel has gone on record saying that he has "good reasoning and valid reasoning" to counter them.

TCIL for its part has taken the stand that the tenders quoted to the UN and orders awarded to the company were always based on its position as L1 bidder. "We deny everything that has been said about TCIL in the report about someone steering huge contracts to the company. The facts have been misrepresented," an official said in New Delhi.

Details of the investigation were first reported on Friday in an Italian business newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore. The UN is believed to have gone ahead with Bahel's suspension immediately upon learning that the paper was about to make public the investigation report.

The UN spokesman said the unnamed staffer was being given an opportunity to respond, adding evidence in the case has also been shared with prosecution authorities in the host country. The report was prepared by the Procurement Task Force, formed in January to go into allegations of fraud in the UN's procurement department.

According to contents of the report, Bahel had a long-time relationship with the businessman and his son. The report goes on to say that Bahel rented two side-by-side apartments in New York from them at rates well below the market price and that he later bought the apartments at a favourable price.

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