The What and How of Goa’s Louis Berger Scam and Who’s in the Dock

Here’s all you need to know about the 1,031 crore scam that has put two top Goa Cong leaders in a tough spot. 

4 min read

There’s been yet another arrest in the 1,031-crore bribery scam that rocked Goa in July. Satyakam Mohanty, the former Vice President of US-based firm Louis Berger was taken into custody by the Goa crime branch on Monday.

Reports suggest that Mohanty who currently lives in Gurgaon, Haryana has been booked under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

So what is the scam about? Who are the accused and what is the status of the probe? Here are some of the answers.

The Confession That Broke the Scam

  • In July 2015, Louis Berger officials admitt in a US court that they had paid bribes to top officials in several countries to win government projects.
  • Between 1998 and 2010 the firm won several contracts in different parts of India including the one to monitor the implementation of the Goa Water Supply and Sewerage projects.
  • The former senior Vice President of Louis Berger James McClung allegedly also admitted to bribing Indian government officials in 2010 to secure the contract.
  • Documents reveal that Louis Berger officials paid a sum of $976,630 (about Rs 6.5 crore) to a Goan minister as bribe.
  • In 2012-13, a CAG report pointed out that there were several flaws in the way the project was being executed by Louis Berger which is monitored by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). 
  • Goa government is now seeking a letter rogatory to secure that evidence. A letter rogatory is a formal request for judicial assistance from a foreign country which includes recording evidence on their soil.

State BJP Govt Intervenes, Points Fingers at Then Cong Leaders

Here’s all you need to know about the 1,031 crore scam that has put two top Goa Cong leaders in a tough spot. 
Goa water supply and sewerage project. (Photo: Louis Berger)
  • Goa CM Laxmikant Parsekar ordered the state crime branch to look into the case and prepare a preliminary report. Parsekar said the report will be submitted to the Centre so that a CBI probe can be initiated.
  • Parsekar also ordered a review of all the projects of Louis Berger, but not before pointing out that it was the Congress that was in power, when the scam took place.

When the contracts were awarded, Congress leader Digambar Kamat was Chief Minister and Churchill Alemao was the PWD minister.
– Laxmikant Parsekar, Goa CM

Congress Men Under the Scanner

Digambar Kamat

Here’s all you need to know about the 1,031 crore scam that has put two top Goa Cong leaders in a tough spot. 
Former Goa CM Digambar Kamat. (Courtesy: Goa Legislative Assembly)

The scam broke out and Chief Minister Parsekar pointed fingers at the Congress. But Kamat was quick to deny any wrongdoing on his part.

The entire project was handled and evaluated by officials of JICA. They vetted and cleared every proposal. We had very limited say in the entire project. I am ready to face any probe.
– Digambar Kamat, Former Goa CM

Speaking with NDTV, Kamat also said, “The Louis Berger file never even came to me. How could I have been paid anything?”. Kamat was questioned by the Goa crime branch on Wednesday during which he has reiterated his stand.

Digambar Kamat has been in and out of the Indian National Congress over the years. After being denied a ticket by the Congress in 1994, Kamat had resigned and joined the BJP. Six long year later, in 2000 the BJP finally came into power but Manohar Parrikar became the CM. He stayed on till 2005.

Kamat left the BJP government and went back to the Congress and the Congress had won the elections too. But it made Pratapsingh Rane the CM. Kamat waited for his turn till 2007 when he got the CM’s chair and ruled the state till 2012.

Churchill Alemao

Here’s all you need to know about the 1,031 crore scam that has put two top Goa Cong leaders in a tough spot. 
Churchill Braz Alemao was the PWD minister when the irregularities took place. (Courtesy: ANI)

Alemao was the state PWD minister when the scam broke out and is currently the first one to come under the scanner. Though initially he denied any wrongdoing, once the questioning by Goa crime branch began, Alemao has refused to speak with the media.

Back in the 80s, Churchill Braz Alemao and his brother Alvernas were allegedly involved in gold smuggling. But in 1990, Alemao entered the Goa assembly.

He founded the party United Goans Democratic Party but Alemao was later absorbed by the Congress party. In 2014, when his daughter Valanka Alemao was denied a ticket, he resigned and joined the All India Trinamool Congress.


The Money Trail and the Arrests That Followed

The key to any allegation in a bribery scandal is following the money trail. Goa crime branch has submitted a report to the state government in which it has said that the team has been able to establish the trail.

  • AM Wachasundar, the Project Director of JICA was arrested after the trail was established. Satyakam Mohanty, the former VP of Louis Berger was arrested on Monday.
  • The crime branch team has already quizzed Alemao twice, Kamat once, arrested Wachasundar of JICA and Satyakam Mohanty of Louis Berger.

The Assam Link

After the Goa government began scrutiny, some of Louis Berger’s projects in Assam too came under the scanner.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has also ordered a high-level inquiry into the projects being handled by Louis Berger. 

For now, it appears that the noose is slowly being tightened around all those involved.

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