New Delhi: Despite Suresh Kalmadi's claim of ignorance about the dubious payments to London-based AM Films, evidence show that he authorised them. This is the same company that he pretended -- at his first press conference after the controversy broke -- to never have heard of, reports Times of India.
This evidence also flies in the face of Kalmadi's repeated assertions that he took no financial decisions as chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (the last being in an interview to The Times of India on Sunday).
When news about the OC's payments to AM Films hit headlines, Kalmadi flaunted a purported email (later proven to be fake) dated September 16, 2009, from the Indian high commission (HC) in London to suggest that the recommendation for AM came from the HC. The fact is that Kalmadi's close aides T S Darbari and Sanjay Mohindroo had already signed a contract with AM Car & Van Hire Ltd for a fleet of cars on August 22, 2009.
As early as on October 1, almost a month before the Queen's Baton Relay (QBR) function, the OC knew they had to provide three display screens outside Buckingham Palace for crowd control, and over the next few days collected quotations from various firms. This is contrary to Kalmadi's claim that the OC was told only on October 23 by the Metropolitan Police about display screens without which the QBR function would be cancelled.
A number of disturbing revelations are contained in emails, hand-written faxes, official notes, file notings and vendor quotations of the three-month period leading up to the Queen's Baton Relay in London on October 29, 2009, which are in TOIs possession. These raise questions about the several claims made by Suresh Kalmadi in the wake of the controversy regarding payoffs made to a little-known London outfit, AM Films.
These payoffs appear to have alarmed the British authorities enough to raise the red flag and institute a probe when the OC claimed VAT refunds on them. In turn, the action drew national attention on the deal. As the issue rocked Parliament, the OC suspended three senior officials -- Darbari, Mohindroo (who incidentally, had already left the OC) and the treasurer of the QBR event, M Jeychandren. But that doesn't seem to be the end of the story. The trail is now leading right up to the door and desk of OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi.
In his public statements, Kalmadi has feigned ignorance about the entire dealings with AM Films and its sister concern AM Car and Van Hire. Truth is, on October 24, five days prior to the QBR function, a handwritten fax was sent by Sanjay Mohindroo to Jeychandren. It said, "Video screens required for Buckingham Palace and required as per directions from Met Police and Mayor's office. Payment of GBP 146,868.80 is required to be cleared immediately per enclosed invoice. This is being put up for Chairman's approval."
Below that is a noting by Kalmadi. It says, "Why so late. Now we have no choice", signed Chairman OC. Mohindroo adds below: "MOST URGENT - Chairman OC has desired these payments (be) processed imediately". Jeychandren, who is learnt to have expressed some doubts about the deal, had no option but to make the payments in the face of this fatwa.
Now, this makes two things clear. One, Kalmadi knew about the payment. So why did he choose to deny all knowledge? Two, Kalmadi has been, at the very least, clearing financial decisions, again contrary to his claims.
The deception doesn't end there. On August 22, several weeks before the purported email exchange with the Indian HC, the OC had signed a two-page contract with AM Car & Van for transportation services. The first communication (which later turned out to be fake) from the high commission made public by Kalmadi was however dated September 16. Thus, it is clear that the selection of AM Car & Van was not done at the behest, or based on recommendations of the commission, but as a result of separate and private negotiations between the OC's Sanjay Mohindroo and Ash Patel, the owner of AM Car & Van.
Also, the arrangement with AM Films for video screens did not happen as has been claimed by Kalmadi. Documents in TOI's possession show that on October 1, a meeting took place between the OC representatives and London's Metropolitan Police, the palace staff and others, where they were told about the need for public display equipment.
A note signed by Mohindroo says, "As a part of crowd control and to provide live display of the proceeding inside the fore court and around the QVM, for the crowd that will assembly at the Queen Victoria Memorial and The Mall, it was necessary that display equipment and other related services are to be provided. During the meeting held on October 1, 2009 between Metropolitan Police, GLA, Buckingham Palace staff, Royal Parks and OC authorities when they visited London last this was explicitly stated on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Authority and Royal Parks."
OC documents show that Mohindroo received three quotes. Significantly, the first quote, from AM Films, came the very next day -- October 2. And yet, Kalmadi has claimed that it was as late as on October 23 that the OC was told about the need to have display screens. Why did he not mention the October 1 meeting? Was it to justify the "rushed decision" on awarding the contract to AM Films?
The documents show that on October 23, and next day, something else was happening. On October 23, Mohindroo wrote out a two-page note, on the stationary of Crowne Plaza Hotel, backing AM Films. On October 24, Kalmadi cleared the payment to AM.