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Commonwealth Games chief arrested

Indian investigators have arrested the chief organiser of last year's Commonwealth Games along with two other officials as part of a corruption probe.

India had hoped the two-week international sporting competition in October would highlight its rapid development and boost its role on the world stage. Instead, it was deeply embarrassed by accusations of graft, construction delays and cost overruns as the games' budget ballooned by billions over the initial estimate of £250 million.

Reports about filthy athletes' accommodations, unfinished construction projects and security woes further battered the country's image and encouraged scorn against the organising committee chief, Suresh Kalmadi, who had promised a spectacle to rival the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Just weeks before the Games, an audit body identified concerns over bidding procedures and inflated costs. And within days of the closing ceremony on 14 October, officials launched an investigation with raids on committee members' offices and homes.

There have since been numerous arrests, and a government report last month said delays, inefficiency and waste had cost the country £215 million.

On Monday, India's Central Bureau of Investigation took 67-year-old Kalmadi into custody after questioning him at its headquarters. He has been charged with conspiracy for allegedly favouring a Swiss company in the purchase of equipment for timing and scoring events, bureau spokeswoman Dharini Mishra said. His aides Lalit Bhanot and VK Verma were arrested last month.

Kalmadi is due to appear in court on Tuesday for a custody hearing. Investigators said more suspects would be taken into custody in the next few days.

The bureau claims the government lost 1.41 billion rupees (£19 million), paid to Swiss Timing Ltd for equipment available from a Spanish company for less. It was not immediately clear if Swiss Timing was also accused of wrongdoing.

Australian and British companies have also accused the organising committee of delaying payments for services rendered during the Games, which were held between 3 and 14 October.

Last month's damning report on the Games, prepared by two government-appointed arbiters, also cast doubt on the committee's planning priorities. That report, however, has been criticised by the London's Commonwealth Games Federation as inaccurate and unfair, while another Swiss company contracted on the Games also said the report made "unsubstantiated" accusations of wrongdoing.


From Belfast Telegraph