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Kalmadi, two others arrested in Commonwealth Games scam

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Suresh Kalmadi, MP, ex-Union minister and controversial chief of the (OC) of last year’s Commonwealth Games, was arrested today on charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy. He is to be produced in court tomorrow

Two bureaucrats on the OC were taken into custody as well, and Surjeet Lal. Prasad was a joint director-general and Lal a deputy DG.

After news of the arrest, the ruling Congress party announced it had suspended Kalmadi from its membership.

Kalmadi had been summoned twice over the past two weeks by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and had excused himself from the questioning, citing one or other reason.

The arrest came following scrutiny of official documents relating to the TSR (timing, scoring, result) scam, in which has already filed a report, and arrested former OC secretary-general and director-general for "criminal conspiracy with Switzerland-based Swiss Timing and other unknown persons to cheat the Government of India".

On November 30, 2010, the CBI conducted 11 raids across the National Capital Region and said it found documents proving the procedure for awarding the Rs 107-crore TSR contract was manipulated in favour of the Corgémont (Bern)-based Swiss Timing.

Two unnamed former officials of the OC, one of whom assisted the CBI in their investigation, said what sealed Kalmadi’s fate was the video recording of the CGF General Assembly meeting that took place in the second week of October 2010 at Delhi’s Ashok Hotel, during which Kalmadi’s close aide, Verma, announced the appointment of Swiss Timing as the company that would provide TSR.

These sources say everyone was shocked, as the closing of tender was still a month away. Kalmadi chaired the meeting.

Rule bending
The documents the CBI unearthed during their seaches showed Swiss Timing was given the contract as it “fulfilled every criteria”, even before the tender was called. The CBI discovered that the Expression of Interest was prepared in March 2009. In this, Lalit Bhanot had noted that “only Swiss Timing-Omega meets all the criteria” to provide TSR equipment. The EoI then said that “companies/manufacturers who fulfil the eligibility criteria may send their response”. The CBI is likely to ask Kalmadi how in the Expression of Interest the OC found Swiss Timing the most eligible even before the tender was floated.

More, this information – that Swiss Timing was the most eligible – was not made available in the EoI issued in the newspapers. Second, one of the conditions laid down in the EoI was that bidders should have provided TSR equipment to the “last three editions of the Olympic, Asian or Commonwealth Games”. The EoI had taken this, among other things, into consideration in finding Swiss Timing the most eligible company.

However, at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the result equipment was provided by IBM, which sub-contracted it to MSL Software. At the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, Italian company DeltaTre did most of the TSR work. Finally, at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, the main contractor for TSR equipment was MSL. This shows Swiss Timing didn’t actually fulfil this criterion.

Realising the error, this condition was later scrapped. The new condition specified just one Commonwealth, Asian or Olympic Games. This suited Swiss Timing and it then became eligible to bid.

The tender for TSR equipment was out on October 1, 2009. The initial bid document stated: “The bidder must have experience of operating timing and scoring equipment and/or delivered local results systems/on-venue results systems in any of the previous Olympics, Asian or Commonwealth Games in the past five years.”

However, on October 3, this condition was changed to remove “or” and “and” was retained. This change was made to ensure that only one company got the contract, as only Swiss Timing fulfilled the criteria.

Ajay Maken, the Union minister for youth affairs and sports, said it would be prudent for Kalmadi to be removed from his post as chief of the Indian Olympic Association. “It would not be in the national interest that a person who is in jail or who has been charge-sheeted should represent the country anymore. As soon as official confirmation of his arrest comes, we are going to request the IOA to elect someone else,” he said.

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