Toronto, Aug. 16 (PTI): An Indian-Canadian businessman has been found guilty by an Ottava court of conspiring to bribe several government officials in India, including former civil aviation minister Praful Patel.
Nazir Karigar, 65, plotted to distribute at least $450,000 in bribes to decision makers at Air India as well as the then minister, in return for a contract to provide the airline with security technology, Justice Charles Hackland of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled on Thursday, according to The Globe and Mail newspaper.
Patel has in the past denied the allegation, telling the Canadian newspaper in an interview in 2012: “How can my name be drawn into something that is absolutely false?”
Judge Hackland’s decision, which makes it clear there is no evidence that officials in India accepted any money, is the first time a Canadian judge has assessed evidence in a trial and ruled on the foreign bribery law, known as the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
The case dates back to 2005, when Karigar contacted CryptoMetrics, an upstart US high-tech security company with an office in Ottawa, and said he could help the firm secure a contract to supply Air India with a facial-recognition security system. Karigar went on to become the executive director of the company’s Indian subsidiary, and introduced the firm to several high-ranking Air India officials, one of whom was a childhood friend.
Patel, who is now the minister of heavy industries, said he never accepted any money in relation to the deal. He also pointed out repeatedly that CryptoMetrics never received a contract from Air India.
The minister said he believed Karigar had invoked his name to persuade his superiors to send money for a bribe that he kept for himself.
Judge Hackland ruled that, despite the fact that prosecutors were unable to prove that money had been funnelled to any of the Indian officials, there was a sufficient paper trail, including e-mails and a spreadsheet that was created to break down how bribe payments would be dispersed, to show that Karigar and other CryptoMetrics executives intended to make illicit payments.
The law merely requires the Crown to prove that there was a conspiracy, Judge Hackland ruled, explaining that if police in Canada were required to obtain proof of someone receiving a bribe in a foreign country it could possibly put foreign nationals at risk and would make the legislation difficult if not impossible to enforce and possibly offend international comity”.
A sentencing date has not yet been set. The maximum sentence is five years in prison.
Karigar, arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in May 2010, is out on bail.