Bribery case against me false, claims ex-Goa CM Digambar Kamat

Thursday, 13 August,Panaji: Former Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat today said he has nothing to do with the Louis Berger bribery case as he was not holding the top post when the water project at the centre of the scandal was conceived and the related contract signed. Kamat made the submission through his lawyer Surendra Dessai during a hearing on his anticipatory bail plea here. District Judge B P Deshpande, who heard the arguments by the prosecution and defence counsel during the day-long proceedings, adjourned the hearing for tomorrow.

The Congress leader has been booked by the Crime Branch in the case which related to US-based consultancy firm Louis Berger allegedly paying bribes to officials and a Minister to secure contract for a water and sewerage project in the coastal state being implemented with Japanese assistance.

The scandal took place in 2010 when Kamat was Chief Minister heading a Congress-led Government but came to light this year. Police have already arrested four people, including then Public Works Department Minister Churchill Alemao, and questioned Kamat twice. Dessai said Kamat was not the Chief Minister when the project was conceived between 2004-05 and a consultancy contract for it signed in 2007. “There is more to it than meets the eye. I had nothing to do with the entire scope of (project) negotiation,” he said on behalf of Kamat.

The defence counsel said statements recorded against his client had been doctored. “They catch hold of an old employee (of Louis Berger) and doctor his statements submitted before a Magistrate.” Dessai said the entire case is “made up” and smacks of “political vendetta” against Kamat with a possible motive to finish his political career. He said the FIR lacks in clarity and it was like “throwing stones in the darkness”.

“The complaint is against one Minister. Louis Berger (before a US Court) talked about (giving bribe) to one Minister. Where from a second Minister has come into the picture no one knows. They say I am the second Minister,” he said, referring to Kamat.

The lawyer said Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) regulates every project it finances and the same was done in the Goa scheme too. “Every pie which is spent on the project is scrutinised.
Neither the Chief Minister nor any other Minister is involved in this process,” Dessai said.