Former Assam Minister Denies Involvement in Alleged US Firm Bribery Case

Guwahati, July 19: Former Assam minister and current Congress MLA, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, this week denied involvement in an alleged bribery case involving US company, Louis Berger International Inc. The company was awarded a contract for a water supply project in Guwahati.

The Jalukbari constituency Congress MLA said he was never involved in the alleged bribery case.

“There have no mention of any minister of Assam involved in the bribery case involving the US firm in the chargesheet filed in US court,” Dr Sarma said.

At the time of the alleged bribery, Dr Sarma was minister of the Guwahati Development department. The American company was awarded the contract for a water supply project in Guwahati for the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA).

dr sarma
Former Assam minister and current Congress MLA Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Louis Berger International Inc won the Project Management Consultant contract for a water supply project worth Rs 1427 cr. It was financed by Japan International Cooperation Agency under GMDA from 2009 to 2010.

In an 11-page chargesheet, the US Department of Justice revealed that Louis Berger had maintained a detailed diary and an account of bribery payments made to Indian officials.

The bribes were covered up as “commitment fees,” “counterpart per diems,” and payments to third-party vendors.

The names of the bribed Indian officials were not included in the evidence, but a Justice Department official later said that if India made a request for the names, they could be provided.

The firm admitted to the involvement of its employees in bribe payments throughout the world. The bribery saw $3.9 million paid in bribes over 12 years. between 1998 and 2010 in India, Indonesia, Kuwait and Vietnam. The bribes surfaced in an internal company investigation, and the company self-reported the violations.

The case revealed that payments were made to officials in Assam and Goa.

Former Louis Berger International executives Richard Hirsch (61 years) and James McClung (59 years) pled guilty in the Federal court in Trenton, New Jersey. Their sentencing hearing is set for November 5th.

A $17.1 Million penalty has been assessed against the company for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, according to a Justice Department press release.

BJP spokesperson, MJ Akbar, demands a CBI Probe into the Bribery Case after he received initial documents from the US Justice Department.

Hemanta Kumar Nath is a correspondent in Assam, India, who reports on local news in Assam, the north east Indian state.