After water, now Berger's airport projects under scanner
After the projects in Assam and Goa, Louis Berger International Inc's role as a consultant in the Navi Mumbai (appointed in 2008) and Goa (appointed in 2010) airport projects has come under the government's scanner due to the bribery fiasco. The company however said that its wrongdoings connected only to the water projects in Goa and Guwahati and that its other projects were clean.
The Louis Berger Group (LBG), through Derish Wolff (CEO, former chairman) and other former executives presented 'overbilled' USAID contracts in connection with reconstructive cost-reimbursable contracts from 1990 to July 2009. The scheme to defraud the government was carried out Wolff's directions by numerous LBG employees. The company embezzled USAID out of billions of dollars in contracts in developing countries.
USAID is a sovereign federal government agency that pushes for "economic growth, agriculture, trade, global health, democracy, and humanitarian assistance in developing countries by providing civilian foreign aid."
The Indian government, helped by the Japanese government, started the 5 year Goa Water Supply and Sewerage Project to "expand, rehabilitate and build water and sewerage facilities." Louis Berger was part of a consortium for the project in Goa which also included an Indian partner and 2 Japanese firms. The team had prepared a project management plan, evaluated bids etc. according to its website.
The US Justice Department slapped a $17.1 million criminal fine on Louis Berger International Inc, a New-Jersey-based construction management company for bribing officials to win government contracts abroad. The fine also put the Indian officials under the scanner. Richard Hirsch and James McClung pleaded guilty to the bribery charges. The bribes were camouflaged as "commitment fees", "third party vendor payments and "counterpart per diems".
Louis Berger was found guilty of bribing Indian officials to secure water developmental projects in Goa and Guwahati (Assam). The bribery of $976,630 (Rs 6 crore) for a Goa project by Louis Berger included payments to a Minister. The US Department of Justice has not yet disclosed the name and details of the said 'Minister' who is the prime accused in India.
While The US Justice Department has not named any minister, Mannohar Parrikar has hinted at the involvement of Congress leader Digambar Kamat (CM of Goa 2007-2012) and Churchill Alemao (Public Works Department Minister).
The Goan police was asked to conduct an inquiry and submit a report by chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar with regards to the bribery charges against Louis Berger for the JICA water development project in 2010. He had also directed PWD to furnish all the documents related to the JICA project to the Goa police. After the enquiry, a possible CBI probe may follow.
Goa Police submitted a FIR in the Louis Berger case and said that it had been indeed proved that "bribe was paid" by the US firm for a water developmental project in the state. Inspector General of Police-Sunil Garg, however, did not disclose how many minister/ministers were involved. A FIR had been registered against Louis Berger officials and an unknown former Goa minister.