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Home > News > PTI

Indian named in million-dollar UN scam

September 01, 2006 23:45 IST

An Indian government official on deputation to the United Nations has been suspended on charges that he bent rules to help a state-run company get contracts worth million of dollars.

Both the official and the firm have rejected the allegation.

Sanjay Bahel, who was on deputation to the UN from the Indian Defense Auditing services, has been accused by an internal inquiry of helping Telecommunications Consultations of India Ltd get contracts worth 100 million dollars during his posting as chief of commodity procurement for the world body between 1998 and 2003.

The internal investigation claimed that Bahel used his relationship with a wealthy Indian businessman and his son to steer the deals to TCIL, the company they represented.

Asked to comment on the case, UN Chief Spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Friday said that a staff member has been suspended without pay but declined to name the official, saying that the administrative rules do not permit that.

The UN has not released the report or his name officially apparently awaiting his response.

According to the report disclosed on Thursday, Bahel also ignored evidence that TCIL wrongly withheld money from employees sent to UN peacekeeping missions in places such as Liberia, Congo and Kosovo to do communications work.

While the workers claimed they were only getting a pittance -- sometimes as little as USD 5 for daily expenses -- the money enriched another company associated with the Indian businessman and his son, it said.

Bahel vehemently denied the claims and said the UN only notified him of them on Thursday. TCIL also strongly denied allegations and said it has been 'misrepresented' in a report by the UN.

"Whatever tenders we have quoted to the UN or whatever orders have been awarded to TCIL, it was always based on our position as L1 bidder. We deny everything that has been said about TCIL in the report about someone steering huge contracts to the company. We have no access to the UN. The facts have been misrepresented," a senior TCIL official told PTI in New Delhi.

Another official said all the clarifications have been given to the UN in this matter.

The CMD of the company G D Gaiha on Friday met senior Ministry of External Affairs officials twice at the South Block to explain the company's position in the reported internal UN investigation. He was not available for comments.

The investigation reportedly alleged that from 1999 to 2004, TCIL received more than USDD 100 million in UN contracts.

Bahel could face charges including wire fraud, conspiracy, and aiding and abetting.

The report was compiled by the Procurement Task Force, formed in January to pursue allegations of fraud in the procurement department. Many of the claims arose in the wake of the UN Oil for Food scandal, and one UN employee has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering during his time in the Procurement Service.

Dujarric also said the PTF created under the aegis of the Office for Internal Oversight, has completed five fact-finding investigations involving eight staff members.

They were placed on special leave with full pay as of January 16.

Since then, inquires against five have been completed.

Out of them, two have been cleared of committing any irregularities and are back at work. Another two are also back on work but have been asked to respond to alleged mismanagement.

But because of 'serious nature' of charges, the fifth has been suspended without pay and is being given the opportunity to respond.

The charges of widespread corruption in the procurement division surfaced during the investigations by the Volcker Committee into similar charges in the Iraqi food for oil programme.

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