The state government wrote to the US government a few days ago, asking whether consultancy firm Louis Berger made any “dubious payments” to individuals or firms in Maharashtra to bag contracts for infrastructure projects in Mumbai.
If US authorities confirm such payments, the state home department will hand over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Intelligence Bureau.
The department has asked for account details of the New Jersey based-construction management firm, which was found guilty of having allegedly paid bribes to win contracts. After the reports emerged, the Maharashtra government announced a probe by KP Bakshi, additional chief secretary (home) in August last year.
“The investigation into the firm’s alleged bribery is being conducted by US agencies. After about four meetings with officials from the agencies that had appointed Louis Berger as a consultant, we wrote to the US government through the Indian Embassy. We asked for the details of dubious, unaccounted for and undisclosed payments or transactions made using coded language to any agency in Maharashtra, to win the contract,” Bakshi told HT.
“In case the US government’s report points out such payments, we will hand over the investigation to CBI or IB,” he said. “We did not find anything suspicious during the probe. Now, we want to get our information cross-checked by US agencies. These agencies will have the records of payments made by the company, found during their investigation. We expect a response by the second week of December. A report of the probe will then be submitted immediately to the chief minister,” he added.
State government agencies Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), and the Mumbai civic body have appointed Louis Berger as consultants for various projects, while the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and the Thane and Pune civic bodies told the home department that they did not engage the firm even for consultation purposes.
Louis Berger was the project management consultant for many major infrastructure projects in Mumbai, including the monorail, metro rail, Navi Mumbai International Airport Project and the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road.
The company is facing trial in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for paying bribes in various countries to bag contracts. The Goa and Assam governments too had announced a probe when the allegations of bribery came to the fore in July 2015.
In the above report (published in Hindustan Times on November 20, 2016), it was mentioned that the company is facing trial in the US. Louis Berger International has clarified that it is not under investigation nor is the company facing trial in the US. It signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the US government in July 2015 after it voluntarily self-reported the incidents it uncovered in Goa and Assam from 2010 and prior, says the company.
“Independent investigations were conducted by outside forensic accountants and lawyers reviewing all of Louis Berger’s contracts in India in 2010 and prior. Those investigations did not surface any evidence or allegations of wrongdoing on any projects in the Mumbai region... “Louis Berger did what companies are expected to do to uncover and root out corruption. The former managers associated with the improper business activities were separated from the company, and reform managers who took over the company in 2010 embarked on a half-decade journey of reform. Since that time, we have addressed the problems of our past truthfully and transparently,” says the company.