Graft case haunts L&T and Cognizant officials


NEW DELHI: The names of the top executives of Global construction giant Larsen and Toubro (L&T) and former employees of Cognizant India have come to fore in a bribery case, where the executives allegedly bribed Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and Housing and Urban Development department officials in exchange of building approvals in KITS project in Chennai.

This classic case of graft and bribery came to fore in 2016 in the USA, when a case was filed against Gordon Coburn, the former Chief Operating Officer of the Cognizant, over alleged financial irregularities. During the investigation in the US, it came to light that the Cognizant paid a sum of $3.64 million in bribes to Indian government officials to obtain various permits and approvals for construction of its campuses in India between 2013 and 2015. The alleged bribing took place between 2011 and 2016.

As the proceedings continue in the US court, the Vigilance & Anti-Corruption Cell in Vellore filed an FIR into the matter and booked four officials from the L&T (both former and present) including Mr. SN Subramanian, who is currently the CEO of L&T; two former officials of Cognizant India; both the companies and unknown officials of CMDA and Housing and Urban Development Department.

Apart from SN Subramanian, the FIR accessed by National Political Mirror, mentions the names of R Srimanikandan, the then VP (Administration) & Real Estate Officer of Cognizant India; T Sridhar Thiruvengadam, former COO of Cognizant India, Chennai; V Ramesh, former construction division head of L&T, Chennai; K Kannan, former business unit head of L&T, Chennai; MV Sathish, former Executive VP and Head Building and Factories, L&T, Chennai.

The FIR states that R Srimanikandan and T Sridhar Thiruvengadam conspired with V Ramesh of L&T to bribe the officials of CMDA and others to get planning permit approvals for the construction of largest buildings for Cognizant in KITS project in Sholinganallur in Chennai.

According to the FIR, the L&T started construction of large campuses for Cognizant India in Chennai, way before proper permissions were obtained from the concerned government departments. The FIR further states the permissions were only obtained in June 2014, while the construction has started way back in 2011.

The Cognizant India applied for planning permit to CMDA in February 2013, after a lapse of 8 months, the file was sent to the Government for approval. The file was then sent to the then Minister for Housing and Urban Development in November 2013, after a lapse of another 8 months, the approval was finally obtained in June 2014. By then L&T had already completed 40% construction of the Campus.

The vigilance cell also recovered a host of e-mail communications between officials of L&T and Cognizant India and also those with Gordon Coburn, which corroborate the alleged scam.

It was stated in the FIR that Cognizant and L&T officials paid a bribe to the tune of Rs. 12 Crore to the unknown government officials in CMDA and Housing and Urban Development ministry. The same amount as approved by Gordon Coburn in the name of ‘Architectural Enrichment’.

Meanwhile owing to the investigation in the US, the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) confirms that the Cognizant top executives directly participated in criminal bribery scheme to obtain essential permits for critical SEZ facilities, and that the executives falsified Cognizant’s SEC filings.

Recently, L&T CEO SN Subramanian was questioned by FBI in connection with Congnizant bribery case.

A report by Mint, states that the former executive of Cognizant India Srimanikandan Ramamoorthy became cooperating witness in the US, and testified against L&T’s SN Subramanian involvement in approving the improper payment by L&T to the Indian government officials and that Subramanian was central to the facts in this case. The allegation was however denied by Subramanian.

The National Political Mirror spoke to Srimanikandan Ramamoorthy for his version of the alleged bribery case. Ramamoorthy has been earlier cited in reports to be acting as a critical witness,who has been helping the US investigative agencies. When reached out to for a comment, Ramamoorthy confirmed to be helping the US agencies. However, he refused to take any responsibility of his involvement in the matter and clearly denied any further communication on the topic.

He was also asked about his role as accused in the FIR filed by DVAC in India, to which he said that “the matter is already in public domain, and I do not want to speak over the issue.”

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