Indian officials arrested the chief organizer of last year's Commonwealth Games and two other officials on Monday as part of a corruption investigation into the scandal-plagued competition in New Delhi.
India had hoped that the Games would help it herald its rise as a superpower, but instead it was deeply embarrassed by corruption allegations, construction delays and cost overruns as the budget ballooned to billions of dollars.
Organizing Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, the highest-ranking official arrested in the probe, has been charged with conspiracy for allegedly favoring a Swiss company in the purchase of equipment for timing and scoring events, Central Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Dharini Mishra said.
The bureau — the Indian equivalent of the FBI — claims the government was bilked out of 1.41 billion rupees ($31 million), paid to Swiss Timings Ltd. for equipment available from another company for much less.
The bureau said competition for the contract had been wrongfully restricted "in a premeditated and planned manner," with no clear criteria for selecting the winning bids and alleged coercion and threats against those making the final decision.
Two of Kalmadi's aides on the committee — Lalit Bhanot and V.K. Verma — were arrested last month in the same case.
Kalmadi is due to appear in court Tuesday for a custody hearing.
He was detained at the bureau's headquarters after answering investigators' questions Monday morning. Investigators then arrested two more officials — Surjit Lal and A.S.V. Prasad — and said more suspects would be taken into custody in coming days.
The staging of the Games, which cost India about 700 billion rupees ($15 billion) despite an initial estimate of 18.9 billion rupees ($412 million), has unleashed months of bitter allegations and cries of corruption in the handling of the event.
Australian and British companies have accused the organizing committee of delaying payments for services rendered during the Oct. 3-14 Games.
An Indian government report last month said delays, administrative inefficiency and wasteful spending had cost the country $355 million.
The report has been criticized, however, by the London-based Commonwealth Games Federation as inaccurate and unfair.
Switzerland-based Event Knowledge Services, which had been hired to work on the Games, also said the report was off base in making "unsubstantiated" accusations of wrongdoing.