Toronto: An Indian-origin Canadian citizen has been convicted by a court in Ottawa of conspiring to bribe Air India officials and an Indian minister to the tune of USD 450,000 in a failed bid to secure a lucrative contract for an airline security system.
Nazir Karigar, 65, was charged with one count of corruption after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested him in May 2010.
He was accused of being involved in a scheme to provide bribes worth thousands of dollars to officials with Air India from 2005 to 2007. Canadian media had reported last year that investigators had alleged that in early 2007, Karigar had met the then Union Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel and had allegedly given USD 250,000 to one of his "political allies" to get the contract.
Stoutly denying the allegations, Patel had then said the claims of bribery appeared to be "a perfect con job" by somebody trying to convince his company that he could deliver a contract if he is paid.
Karigar was allegedly involved in trying to secure a multi-million dollar contract for Cryptometrics, a company that developed facial-recognition technology that allows security officials to identify people by taking images of their face.
"A number of aspects of the evidence in this trial show that Mr Karigar was an active and knowledgeable part of a conspiracy to offer bribes to Air India officials to obtain the Air India contract," Judge Charles Hackland was quoted as saying by the Ottawa Sun.
Karigar admitted the scheme, which ran through 2007, in an e-mail he later sent to the US Department of Justice signed "Buddy".
Cryptometrics, Karigar said, paid USD 200,000 to ensure there would be only two bids — the second an inflated one by a company he controlled.
Then it paid USD 250,000 for then-minister of aviation Patel to "bless" the system, the report said. "What about my immunity?" he asks in the 2008 e-mail. There is no evidence of what became of the cash after it went from Cryptometrics to Karigar or whether it was ever offered or paid to any official, the paper quoted Hackland as saying.
Karigar is the first person convicted under Canada's foreign anti-corruption laws.
Three corporations have previously pleaded guilty under laws on the books since 1999. An official with the Canadian consulate in Mumbai testified she was "shocked" when Karigar told her during a 2007 meeting that Cryptometrics had paid a bribe to the minister and knew he had received it. She warned Karigar and the company's CEO that they could be prosecuted.
Karigar's lawyers argued that Canada had no jurisdiction, noting the real "pullers of financial strings" – Cryptometric's two top executives – are in New York and all dealings with Air India officials beyond two short visits to Ottawa happened in India.
But Hackland found that there was a "real and substantial connection" because Karigar is a Canadian and his conspirators planned to use bribes to buy an unfair advantage for a Canadian company.
Had the company won the contract, much of the work would have been done in Ottawa.
Karigar, still out on bail, is back in court in September to set a date for sentencing. The law provides for up to 14 years behind bars.
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Updated Date: Aug 16, 2013 20:35:44 IST