CBI begins probe into Louis Berger bribery case in Assam

GUWAHATI, OCTOBER 12 (HT): The CBI has begun probe into allegations of bribery by US consultancy firm Louis Berger for securing Assam government contracts.


The CBI took over the case after the Gauhati High Court had on September 2 said Assam’s criminal investigation department was going slow on the case and purportedly trying to shield the accused. A CBI team on Thursday questioned the three persons who had filed a case in the bribery scam — Bhaben Handique, Abdul Wahid and Jayanta Gogoi — at the CBI’s office here.


The probe agency did not disclose what transpired. The three petitioners too chose to speak “when the time comes”. The case dates back to July 2105 when the US department of justice under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act filed a lawsuit against the New Jersey-based Louis Berger. The case involved water management projects in Assam and Goa.


Soon after the US lawsuit, Handique filed a police case in Guwahati alleging Louis Berger had paid Rs 6 crore to Assam officials and politicians to secure a water supply project in Assam worth Rs 1,452 crore.


The Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) had awarded Louis Berger a contract in 2010 to manage three water supply projects. These projects, funded by Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency, are yet to be completed.


The case was handed over to CID, but Handique went to the high court seeking a CBI probe as he felt the state agency was trying to shield influential people involved. Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi and Himanta Biswa Sarma, then a Congress leader and minister for Guwahati Development Department under which GMDA functions, blame each other for giving the contract to Louis Berger.


Sarma switched over to BJP in 2015 to eventually become a minister in the BJP-led coalition government handling key portfolios such as finance, health and education. A 40-page FIR that the CBI filed in New Delhi on October 4, however, is against unnamed officials of GMDA and of Louis Berger.