BeyondHeadlines News Desk
New Delhi: A Delhi court today sent Suresh Kalmadi, former chairman of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) Organising Committee, to Tihar Jail in judicial custody for the next 14 days. Kalmadi was on eight-day police remand, which ended today.
Kalmadi is accused of corruption in his capacity as chairman of the CWG Organising Committee. He is charged with delivering inflated contracts to companies that charged exorbitant rates for equipment and services employed for the Games that were held in September in India.
Kalmadi was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on April 25 for fraud and conspiring with other officers of the organising committee to overpay a Swiss firm Rs 95 crore for timing and scorekeeping equipment that was used at different venues during the Commonwealth Games.
A lawyer from Madhya Pradesh had made attempts to attack Kalmadi with a slipper on April 26 when Kalmadi was being taken to the Patiala House courts in the national capital.
The CWG mess
A few weeks before the games began, the media began reporting on what seemed to be systematic corruption among those in charge of organising the event. A glut of contracts hired the most expensive firms to provide equipment and services. Competitive bids were ignored. Mr Kalmadi denied all corruption charges, but he was also confronting questions about the overwhelming lack of preparedness for the Games. The budget for the event had been busted several times over. But there seemed to be little to show for it. Amid international criticism, Kalmadi was sidelined by the government and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and the Army were asked to get the capital ready.
It was the Athletes Village that embarrassed India more than any other aspect of the Games. International delegates touring the venue found filthy toilets, dogs’ paw prints on bedsheets and ceilings that were leaking water into the apartments.
What helped India recover from the PR nightmare was the spectacular Opening Ceremony. But the public had by then developed a strong distaste for Mr Kalmadi’s efforts to assume centre stage. At the closing ceremony, as he delivered his speech, Kalmadi was heckled. When he referred to Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party president was seen shaking her head in disapproval. The Prime Minister hosted a tea reception for Indian athletes and pointedly excluded Kalmadi from the guest list.
Investigation and arrest
As the CBI began a full-fledged investigation into the relentless corruption that the Games were embedded with, some of Mr Kalmadi’s closest aides were arrested. They included Lalit Bhanot, who served as the Secretary General of the Organising Committee and V K Verma who was its Director General. The CBI questioned Mr Kalmadi three times and raided his homes and offices in Delhi and Pune to gather evidence that he had functioned as the Chairman of the Badmaash Company that had run the Games. Yesterday, after a fourth round of interrogation, he was arrested.
Investigators say they found it easiest to nail Kalmadi for the 141-crore contract he gave to Swiss Timing for its timing equipment – the deal was inflated by 95 crores. But it’s not the only case that the CBI hopes to use against the Lok Sabha MP.
Kalmadi will have to explain why he chose AM Car and Films to provide taxis, portable toilets and big public TV screens for the Queen’s Baton Relay that was held in London in September 2009. The function kick-started the Commonwealth Games and saw AM Cars and Films making huge profits. For example, the firm charged upto 500-1000 pounds a day for taxis. The owner, Ashish Patel, whose financial background was sketchy, had been paid large advances even without a signed contract. When asked why, Kalmadi said there hadn’t been enough time to process the formalities.
Patel is now being urged by the CBI, which recently sent a team to London to interrogate him, to turn approver.