NEWDELHI: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Canada have a case on their hands where a Canadian has claimed to have paid a bribe of $2,50,000 to Praful Patel, former Civil Aviation Minister, to swing a contract bid with Air India in his favour.
While the case dates back to 2005, the ripples are being felt now when the RCMP have implicated 64-year-old Nazir Karigar, an India-born Canadian who claimed to have bribed Patel for an Air India contract that never took off. Karigar faces charges of violating the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act - a law in Canada that forbids the payment of bribes abroad. The expose came on the Globe and Mail, a Canadian daily as one of its reporters revealed that Hasan Gafoor, a former Air India security in charge and the Mumbai police Commissioner, conspired with Karigar to rig a contract worth $100 million for which Air India had sent out a tender in 2005. It was on behalf of CryptoMetrics, a high-tech security company, that Karigar bid for a facial-recognition security system sought by Air India. Authorities allege that Karigar spoke openly to others about channeling a bribe to Patel, currently Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, through a political ally, Laxman Dhoble, in order to influence the approval of the contract. Karigar is also a childhood friend of Gafoor, who gave him the lead to this contract. CryptoMetrics received an internal draft copy of the Air India tender two months before it was officially released to other potential bidders, the RCMP allege. They also contend that at least $2,50,000 were wired by CryptoMetrics to India and distributed to Gafoor’s Air India co-workers, including a deputy in the security division, to ensure that CryptoMetrics was one of the only companies qualified to bid on the contract.
Investigators allege that in early 2007 Karigar met with Patel, along with Dhoble. CryptoMetrics sued Karigar in 2007, saying it paid him $2,50,000 on the condition that the Air India contract would be signed within days, but the contract never came through as Air India dropped the plan for procurement all together finding the proposition expensive. Proof of this money leaving CryptoMetrics is filed in several e-mails that the company documented when it filed for bankruptcy. One of the e-mails has Karigar explaining to CryptoMetrics executives that “the money is now in Escrow with Dhoble”.
Patel denies charges
Patel alleges that Karigar must have been dropping big names to procure the money from CryptoMetrics denying that he ever met Karigar. The whole case came to focus when a Candian diplomat based in Mumbai alerted her authorites about the bribe that Karigar had bragged about in a conversation with her. Once the deal failed to come through, Karigar himself started tipping off the police anonymously. Karigar was charged in 2010. Patel has now sought the help of the Prime Minister to clear his name of the ‘false’ allegations and save the nation from an embarrassment.