The noose around former Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat seems to be tightening in the Louis Berger bribery case.
Goa Police have now claimed that the Congress leader, whose interim relief from arrest was extended till August 12, allegedly blackmailed consultants and refused to process the file for months, till the bribes were paid.
Calling Kamat a "habitual offender", as he had been implicated by the Shah commission who probed into the massive irregularities in Goa's mining industry, police are now holding him as the main conspirator in the case. They have listed 11 reasons detailing why Kamat must be arrested. Hindustan Times has a copy of the reply.
Kamat, however, rubbished all allegations.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Kamat said, "The file never came to me. How could I hold it up or pressurise officials?"
In the reply, the police said that Kamat quarreled with the then finance secretary, Udipta Rai, and other bureaucrats who were opposing the move in a meeting held at his official residence over the project.
They added employees of Louis Berger have confessed they delivered a bribe of Rs 1.20 crore to Kamat during 2010-11. The money was delivered in two batches, of around Rs 60 lakh each, once at the CM's official residence in Altinho and the other time at his private residence in Margao.
The reply also says that Kamat not just held up the approval to the project but also did not give his approval to the bills submitted by Louis Berger in order to extract bribes from them.
"Investigation reveals that the motive of the then CM and PWD minister... in 2010 in keeping on hold the file… was to send a feeler to the concerned consortium the urge for monetary benefits for awarding the consultancy work," said the Goa Police in the submission.
Sensing the feelers, the then project director of the controversial water supply and sewerage work and now accused Anand Wachsunder conveyed the message to the consortium that they need to fulfill the "monetary commitments made to the ministers", after which the bribe was paid.
Special public prosecutor Guruprasad Kirtani said that the evidence before the police was very strong.
"We will definitely appeal for Kamat's custody on the 12th (of August)," said Kirtani.
What might make the going tougher for Kamat is the confessional statement of Wachsunder recorded by the police on Friday. Sources in the department said that Wachsunder has confessed to the irregularities and his revelations could nail Kamat and the former public works department minister Churchill Alemao. Alemao was arrested late on Wednesday and has been remanded in police custody for four days.
Meanwhile, the crime branch of the Goa Police arrested Raichand Soni, who the police allege was the hawala operator who transferred the bribe money to be paid to Kamat and Alemao.
The police have said that Kamat's involvement in the crime has been established and they will also investigate the "massive wealth" accumulated by him under his name as well as those of his family members.
The session's court has now listed the hearings of the bail applications filed by Alemao and arrested Louis Berger vice-president Satyakam Mohanty for Monday.
New Jersey-based Louis Berger was hired as consultants as part of a consortium for a water and sewage project in Goa five years ago. Its executives have admitted in a US court that they paid nearly a million dollars to be hired as consultants for the project in Goa.
They also said that maintained a detailed account listing the bribes that were paid in Goa and for another project in Guwahati. The Goa crime branch has asked for copies of those documents.
Officials of Louis Berger officers, who were summoned by the crime branch, said they paid a kickback to Kamat and Alemao.