Ajit Singh orders suspension of 6 top AAI officials

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Six senior Airports Authority of India officials have been suspended after a preliminary CBI probe found them allegedly favouring a private firm while awarding ground handling service contracts at some airports.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has ordered immediate suspension and initiation of major penalty proceedings against AAI executive director (Commercial) L.L. Krishnan, DGM Finance R.L. Saran, Additional GM (Commercial) S. Basu, DGM (Operations) Arun Mehan, DGM (Operations) P.K. Chadha and GM Ravi Verma, a Ministry statement said.

A CBI inquiry had found them allegedly involved in committing irregularities and favouring a particular company in awarding ground handling services contracts at Chennai and Kolkata airports.

The Minister has also ordered filing of FIR against Prem Bajaj, MD of Bhadra International India Ltd, retired AAI ED (Commercial) R.V. Narayanan, retired AAI ED (Finance) A.K. Dubey and others for manipulating, forgery, criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy and corruption, the statement said.

The AAI officers had allegedly made certain deviations from the commercial manual in the Notice Inviting Tender (NIT) while awarding contract for ground handling services at Chennai and Kolkata airports so that Bhadra International India Ltd was benefited, the CBI probe found.

The officials had deliberately incorporated the term 'tie-up' arrangement in the eligibility criteria as stipulated in the NIT to make Bhadra International India Ltd eligible in joint venture technical agreement with Novia International Consulting APS for participating in the bid process.

It was found that the financial bid of the consortium of Bhadra International India Ltd and Novia International was tampered after opening of the tender by modifying the rate of royalty payable to AAI so that it becomes greater than the quotes of other two competing companies and the consortium could win the contract, the statement said.

The figure of 'nine and half' was manipulated to make it 'nine teen and half'.

The term 'tie-up' was introduced to make the company eligible for the bid. As neither Bhadra International India Ltd nor Novia International Consulting APS had a minimum five years experience in ground handling as required in tender conditions, it claimed.

"The experience of Novia Group of Companies was taken into account by the officials in violation of tender conditions. As there was no minimum annual turnover of Rs 200 crore for Novia International Consulting APS, the annual financial turnover of entire Novia Group of Companies was taken into account by the AAI officials," the probe found.

The CBI also found grave and serious irregularities in award of contract of ground handling services for Trivandrum, Coimbatore, Calicut, Mangalore and Tiruchi.

The inquiry also revealed that the TDI International also owned by Prem Bajaj, sister company of Bhadra International was having a huge outstanding of Rs 36 crores to AAI in an advertisement contract.

Further, R.V. Narayanan, retired ED (Commercial) who was liable for drafting NIT, joined Bhadra International India Ltd as its vice-president after his retirement.

Taking serious note, Singh also directed AAI to suitably amend its service rules for employees by incorporating provisions on seeking permission from department in case of employment within a period of two years after retirement, the Ministry statement said, adding the Minister has sought the compliance report on his directions by the end of September.

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