38 Indian firms paid $100,000 plus in kickbacks

New Delhi, Oct 30 | Updated: Oct 31 2005, 06:54am hrs
As many as 38 Indian companies made illicit payments of over $100,000 to the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq for doing business under the United Nations oil-for-food programme, according to the report of the independent inquiry committee headed by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Vocker.

Some of these companies are Rites, Tata International, Ranbaxy Labs, Ajanta Pharma, Alembic Chemicals, Godrej Boyce, Kirloskar Bros, Kirloskar Oil Engines, LT Intl, Mohan Exports, NSIL Exports, United Phosphorous, Priyanka Overseas and IndoAsian Fusegear, the report said.

According to the report, 129 Indian companies made illicit payments to the tune of $22 million towards contracts worth approximately $425 million. The payments were ostensibly for inland transportation and after-sales service.

The committee said such payments were not only outside UN-approved contracts for humanitarian supplies but also excessive.

Most of the Indian companies listed in the report are alleged to have paid relatively small kickbacks routinely pegged at 10% of the total value of the contract executed.

Significantly though, the Volcker report has admitted that the companies named may not have known about the illegal flow of funds to various officials. The committee emphasises that identification of a particular companys contract as having been the subject of an illicit payment does not necessarily mean that such company as opposed to an agent or secondary purchaser with an interest in the transaction made, authorised or knew about an illicit payment, the report said.

It said only a few companies cited by it had responded, either denying having made any payments or arguing that these payments were duly authorised. An overwhelming majority of the companies chose not to respond to its initial findings.

The few that responded either denied having made any payments or argued that these payments were duly authorised under the UN-approved contracts and were towards services legitimately rendered to it in executing these contracts.