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Navy probe into payoffs by US firm hits hurdle

A navy probe into kickbacks allegedly paid to its officers by a US defence firm last year has hit a roadblock.
Hindustan Times | By Rahul Singh and Manish Tiwari, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 06, 2010 12:01 AM IST

A navy probe into kickbacks allegedly paid to its officers by a US defence firm last year has hit a roadblock.

The American firm has refused to reveal details of the illegal payments made to the officers, a senior navy officer said. A US government report revealed last May that agents of York International Corporation, which deals in heating and air-conditioning on ships, had paid $1,32,500 (around Rs 60 lakh) to navy officers to secure contracts during 2000-2006.

He said, “We had sought records of the transactions from the US firm to carry out our inquiry. It has not provided us with any material to corroborate the allegations.”

The navy ordered a probe after India’s Ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, wrote a letter to the PMO giving details of bribes paid by US firms to bag contracts in India.

The letter, triggered by a US government report on foreign corrupt practices, also listed out payoffs made by US firms to several Indian entities such as the Maharashtra State Electricity Board, Indian Railways and Central Insecticides Board.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits US corporations from paying bribes to foreign government officials. However, the probe and prosecution of allegations raises enforcement as well as jurisdiction issues.

Subsidiaries of US firms such as Dow Chemical Company and Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation (WABTEC) were among the companies that allegedly paid bribes.

WABTEC’s Indian subsidiary allegedly made illegal payments of $1,37,400 (Rs 61.8 lakh) to Railways officials between 2000 and 2005. A subsidiary of Dow Chemicals paid $2,00,000 (Rs 90 lakh) to officials of state-owned Indian enterprises.

“After the commerce ministry and the PMO forwarded letters written by the Indian Embassy in the US ... we had directed the ministries and state governments to take action against officials ...,” said a top CVC source.

“In some cases, the ministries had already initiated action while in others, we directed them to fix responsibility and take action,” the source added.

The allegations against Navy officials, however, were vague and thus the defence ministry had been asked to inquire and then take action accordingly.

The CBI also looked into some allegations and sent its reports to the CVC and ministries for action, the source added.

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