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Indian pleads guilty to bribing UN official

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 04:50 IST
Reuters
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An Indian businessman pleaded guilty on Thursday to bribing a UN purchasing official with two luxury apartments in return for being given more than $50 million in the world body's contracts.

Nishan Kohli pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to one count of bribery of an official of an organization receiving more than $10,000 in federal funds, US Attorney Michael Garcia said in a statement.

Kohli, an Indian, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, Garcia said.

Kohli is alleged to have sold Sanjay Bahel, the head of the UN commodity procurement wing from 1998 to 2003, two luxury condominium units just blocks from the United Nations' Manhattan compound at severely cut prices.

Kohli also gave Bahel a series of cash payments and a cell phone so the two could "communicate in secret," Garcia said.

The apartments and gifts were a return gift for Bahel granting Kohli, the managing partner of Thunderbird Industries, LLC, and an agent for Indian government-owned Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd, "a line of communication and source for information within the UN that exceeded what UN vendors could typically expect to receive," Garcia said.

In addition to being an outspoken advocate within the UN for the companies represented by Kohli, Bahel even on occasion "canceled bids by competing companies and rebid contracts," Garcia said.

Kohli was able to secure numerous deals for TCIL from the United Nations, including radio communications, computer equipment and information technology contracts, Garcia said.

Bahel pleaded not guilty to bribery in November. Freed on bail at the time, he is scheduled to go to trial on May 7.

Bahel, formerly of the Indian government's military auditing service, came under scrutiny in September of 2004 when a UN internal audit investigated contracts he handled.

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