CBI to likely to probe MEA gift case

The CBI is likely to investigate a case in which gifts bought by the External Affairs Ministry to be given to foreign dignitaries were allegedly purchased at inflated costs by circumventing rules.

The move comes after the Ministry referred the matter to the CBI. Sources in the agency said they may initiate a preliminary inquiry in the case to evaluate the criminality aspect.

The Ministry had sent the request to the CBI for a probe as its preliminary investigation revealed that the gifts to be given by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to the foreign dignitaries were purchased at inflated costs and were of inferior quality.

The rules laid down by the Ministry were that such gifts could only be purchased from state emporiums to promote indigenous artforms. However, Assam and Madhya Pradesh emporiums had informed the Ministry that they had signed memorandums of understanding with some private players for the supply of artifacts, MEA said in an RTI response.

In its reply to activist Subhash Agrawal, the Ministry said, "The preliminary investigation conducted by the Ministry could not establish prima facie any clear involvement or complicity of the concerned officials of this Ministry. The CBI has, therefore, been requested to undertake a detailed investigation into the matter.

"Action against those found guilty is contemplated only after the completion of the CBI inquiry," it said.

The Ministry said that it had been revealed during its preliminary investigation that gifts were purchased at much higher prices than their actual costs.

The scam came to light after reports that several gifts, which were purchased for foreign dignitaries during Krishna's visit to Malaysia and Myanmar, were of inferior quality and purchased at a higher price.

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