US payoffs: Corrupt bureaucrats being probed, assures Manmohan

      The Government on Tuesday said that a probe has been ordered into corruption charges against bureaucrats after the Indian envoy to US, Meera Shankar, said in a letter that they were bribed by US firms. The Prime Minister's Office said the letter of Indian Ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, dated May 12, reached the office when the country was in the midst of Lok Sabha polls. "As soon as the government settled down, a probe was ordered. Everything in the case is being looked into," the PMO said. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also said that the matter was being looked into, even as former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda said that the corruption charges against him were baseless and that he was ready to face an inquiry. Reacting to Meera Shankar's letter, External Affairs Minsiter SM Krishna said, "Meera Shankar has filed a report as our ambassadors often do. We will look into the matter." According to Shankar's letter to the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary TKA Nair, prominent Indian organisations which received funds include Maharashtra State Electricity Board (which got payments from Mario Covino of Control Companies), Indian Railways (by Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation) and Central Insecticides Board (by Dow Chemicals). The US companies have been booked under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the US, according to the letter. The BJP had yesterday released Shankar's letter and questioned the government's silence on the matter saying it "amounts to shielding the corrupt". Expressing concern over the development, the CPI(M) today asked the government to take firm action against persons who allegedly took bribes and blacklisted all US firms involved in it. The PMO said that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has been ordered to look into the matter. The DoPT has also been asked to co-ordinate with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Shankar has also cited a bribe of Rs.61 lakhs given to Indian Navy officials by an agent of York International Corporation. The global provider of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration products has admitted to the transaction. The money was transferred over a period of six years between 2000 and 2006 for placing over two hundred orders. Indian Navy sources, however, denied any information on Meera's letter. "The Navy was not informed about the letter. The navy got to know about it today from the newspapers. We are waiting for an official memorandum from the government and then, we will begin our internal investigations. Upto today, there has not been any intimation from either the government or the Central Bureau of Investigation," the Times Now TV channel quoted Navy sources, as saying. The Mumbai based DE- Nocil Protection - a subsidiary of Dow Cemicals has admitted to paying about a crore to an official in India's Central Insecticides Board to expedite the registration of three of its products. The Maharashtra State Electricity board has also allegedly received over four crores in bribes. Mario Covino - an American firm which makes valves has also admitted to the pay-offs. Indian Railway Employees are also under the scanner. Pioneer Friction Limited has also admitted to making payments of 63 lakh rupees.

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