Thursday, August 5, 2010

Alleged CWG corruption: Three people suspended, treasurer quits

After a fortnight of damning allegations and revelations, heads have begun rolling in the Organising Committee for the Commonwealth Games. And the investigation into allegations of corruption has been handed over to the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

T S Darbari, Jt Director General of the committee and a close aide of the chief Suresh Kalmadi, has been suspended after censure by the Sports Ministry. Another member, Sanjay Mohindroo, has also been suspended, as has M Jeychandren, Officer on Special Duty, Finance & Accounts.

Darbari and Mohindroo were the people responsible for delivery, Jeychandren was the person responsible for accounts and they would remain under suspension while the ED conducted its inquiry, the committee's Secretary General Lalit Bhanot said at a Press conference.

Bhanot repeatedly insisted though that the Organising Committee was "transparent", and that it defended its decisions.

The committee has also decided to sack an Australian company hired to land sponsorships for the Commonwealth Games, Sports Marketing and Management (SMAM), for "non-performance." (Alleged CWG corruption: Australian Firm, SMAM, fired)

Earlier in the day, the Treasurer, Anil Khanna, resigned over reports that his son's company won a contract worth a crore for prepping tennis courts for the Games and used inferior material.

He will be replaced by AK Mattoo, in a role reversal of sorts. Mattoo had quit the post of Treasurer in January this year, and Khanna was brought in.

It's a new wave of embarrassment for the Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, given that all these people are known for their proximity to him. (Video Special: Corruption scandal hits CWG)

The Sports Ministry had formally asked Kalmadi to dismiss Darbari and Mohindroo on the grounds that they are linked to two major financial scandals.

An email from Mohindroo shows him dictating taxi rates to a vendor in London who was hired to provide cars and other services during the Queen's Baton Relay function in London last year. (Read: Commonwealth Games official 'fixed' taxi rates?)

The vendor in question -Ashish Patel- and his firm, AM Cars -have a dubious financial record. Instead of asking him for rates, Mohindroo states what fares Patel should charge. 450 pounds a day. Exorbitant even when compared to hiring a BMW or Mercedes with a driver in London.

Darbari is at the centre of a Customs case which accuses him of illegally trying to import a ring worth nearly 20 lakh from Dubai into Kerala. He was also sent to Australia for the Queen's Baton Relay there.

Sources say Darbari is linked to a controversial deal with an Australian firm, Sports Marketing and Management (SMAM), which was allegedly promised close to 200 crores in exchange for delivering sponsorship for the Games. What exactly SMAM has delivered so far remains unclear.

The company's head, Mike Bushell, told an Australian newspaper that they had managed record-breaking deals for the Games, and that SMAM has not been paid "a single rupee" so far. The Inquiry Committee set up by Kalmadi is also looking into whether SMAM shares any DNA with World Sports Group, a company being investigated for an 80-crore kickback in a controversial broadcast rights deal for the Indian Premier League.

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