Enforcement Directorate today registered a money laundering FIR in Louis Berger bribery case to probe charges of bribing Indian officials with several crores of rupees to win a major water developmental project in Guwahati.
Officials said Enforcement Directorate's Eastern Region office based here directed its office in Assam to register a complaint under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after taking cognisance of a police complaint that was registered by a local NGO sometime back in the state.
ED is the first central probe agency to have taken over investigation in this case. The Goa police (Crime Branch) are already probing the case and it arrested former state Public Works Department Minister Churchill Alemao yesterday.
"The police FIR was filed in the Kamrup police station by an NGO against Louis Berger sometime back. The firm was taken as a consultant for water supply project by the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority," sources said.
ED has named the firm and unidentified individuals in its criminal complaint and will soon seek documents from the company.
"The scope of adding more names to the FIR is open," they said.
Sources said a similar FIR would soon be filed by ED in Goa.
The officials of the New Jersey-based company had confessed in the US last month of paying bribe to Indian officials and ministers for winning consultancy of Water Augmentation and Sewerage pipeline project under Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) fuding.
Two of the Louis Berger former executives- Richard Hirsch (61) of the Philippines, and James McClung (59) of the UAE - had pleaded guilty to the bribery charges.
According to documents produced in the US court, the company through its employees and agents, together with others, used terms like "commitment fee," "counterpart per diem," "marketing fee" and "field operations expenses" as code words to conceal the true nature of the bribe payments and utilised cash disbursement forms and invoices which did not truthfully describe the services provided of the purpose of the payment.
In India since 1998, Louis Berger has offices in Gurgaon, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad.
"Along with several consortium partners, the company won two water development projects in Goa and Guwahati. The company paid bribes to win both of these contracts," federal prosecutors had alleged.
According to court documents, the company through its employees and agents and its consortium partners kept track of the bribe payment by a circulating spreadsheet among themselves showing the proportionate share of each bribe that they had paid to the foreign officials overseeing their work on Guwahati and Goa projects.