PANAJI: Former PWD Minister Churchill Alemao has been arrested in connection with the Louis Berger bribery case by Goa police which is closing in on former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and preparing to oppose his anticipatory bail plea.
Alemao, 66, who was taken into custody from Agassaim village in South Goa and later put under arrest around midnight by the Goa Police's Crime Branch, claimed he was innocent and his arrest was "politically motivated," a charge rejected by Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, heading the BJP-led Government in the state.
Parsekar said, "Police are doing a good job. No one would be spared". Police claimed that Alemao was arrested on the basis of "clinching" evidence. "Alemao was arrested as we got clinching evidence against him after interrogating others accused who are arrested. We might need custodial interrogation of Kamat too," a senior Crime Branch official said on condition of anonymity.
Kamat, who headed the previous Congress ministry, had earlier moved an anticipatory bail application in a Pananji court which will hear it tomorrow. "We are preparing a strong response for the anticipatory bail plea filed by Kamat. We will oppose it," the officer said.
State Director General of Police T Mohan said it would completely depend on the investigating officer (IO) whether or not to oppose the anticipatory bail plea of Kamat. "But I feel he must be opposing it as they might want him for the investigation," the DGP said.
Alemao is the only politician to have been arrested in connection with the pay-off case so far. The Crime Branch had quizzed Alemao twice last week, besides Kamat, who was the chief minister between 2007 and 2012.
Alemao said he was innocent and arrested as part of a "political game." "I am happy. They have arrested me. This is a political game. I have not done anything wrong," Alemao told PTI while being taken for medical examination during the wee hours today.
"Why should I go for anticipatory bail. I am very innocent. I have not done anything wrong," said Alemao when asked why he didn't move anticipatory bail plea. However, Parsekar dismissed the allegation of political interference in the Louis Berger bribery case, saying the police were doing their job independently.
"The police are doing their job independently. There is no political interference in that. We have given free hand to them to investigate this case," Parsekar said. He said those involved in this case would be punished.
Supporters of Kamat, who represents Margao in the state assembly, had gathered at his residence yesterday in a show of solidarity. Independent MLA Vijay Sardesai also visited the 61-year-old leader's house.
The Crime Branch had earlier arrested Anand Wachasunder, former director of JICA-aided project for Goa and Louis Berger's ex-vice president Berger Satyakam Mohanty in connection with the case.
The scandal involves the New Jersey-based consultancy firm allegedly doling out bribes to win the consultancy for a water project under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funding. The details of the bribery scandal of USD 976,630 for the Goa project have not been disclosed by the US Department of Justice.