India’s former Olympic chief faces fraud charges Verma, Lal, Prasad and Jayachandran also facing charges

NEW DELHI, Dec 21, (AFP): A judge on Friday ordered prosecutors to charge India’s former Olympic chief and five other sports officials with fraud relating to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. Suresh Kalmadi, who headed the Games organising committee, his deputy Lalit Bhanot and four others were accused of favouring a particular company while awarding contracts for installing a timing system for the Games. Judge Talwant Singh ordered the prosecution to frame charges of “cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and for other offences under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act” by January 10, the Press Trust of India reported. Also facing charges are the organising committee’s director-general V.K. Verma, procurement director Surjit Lal, sports director A.S.V. Prasad and treasurer M. Jayachandran.

Two Indian companies and the firm Swiss Timing, which was awarded a contract to supply equipment, are also accused in the case, the Press Trust of India said. Police alleged in 2010 that Swiss Timing had supplied equipment “at exorbitant rates of one 1.07 billion rupees ($18 million)... thereby causing huge loss to the government”. It was unclear whether the judge has also ordered the prosecution of the companies. The firms and the six Indian officials accused, who are all currently on bail, have denied wrongdoing. The judge said they would be formally charged on January 10.

Kalmadi, a serving member of parliament, headed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), which was suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on December 4 for unethical practices during controversial IOA elections. Kalmadi did not run in the IOA elections earlier this month, but Bhanot was elected unopposed as secretary-general, even though the IOC had declared the entire election process illegal. Suspension from the IOC means India will not receive funding from the body and its officials are banned from attending Olympic meetings and events.

India’s athletes would also be barred from competing in the Olympics under the national flag, although the IOC could allow some to participate under the Olympic flag. The Commonwealth Games were meant to showcase India’s status as an emerging global power, but sporting headlines were stolen by shoddy construction and budget overruns, with the cost of hosting the event tripling to at least $6.0 billion. India’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Vigilance Commission, received complaints alleging that up to $1.8 billion of Games money was misused.

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