Australians sue Delhi over unpaid Games bills

Delhi Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in October 2010 The 2010 Games were plagued by claims of shoddy construction and dubious payments to contractors

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An Australian firm has threatened to sue the Delhi Commonwealth Games organising committee for non-payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The company said it had not been paid for the opening and closing ceremonies, which were held on 3 and 14 October.

Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna, who is visiting Australia, has pledged to take up the issue when he returns home.

Firms from Europe are also reportedly chasing millions of dollars in unpaid bills from Delhi.

Ric Birch - whose Sydney-based firm, Spectak, helped plan the opening and closing ceremonies - says it is owed A$350,000 ($350,000; £220,000) in unpaid bills.

Class action

He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he had instructed lawyers to launch a class action against the Games organisers. And he said that his was not the only firm chasing unpaid bills from Delhi.

"There were up to 15 other companies involved with the opening ceremony and many more companies involved with the Commonwealth Games overall.

Start Quote

It has been brought to my notice and I would go back to India and take it up with the ministry of sports”

End Quote SM Krishna Foreign Minister

"None of the companies have received their payments, which were due under contract by the end of October."

Firms from Britain, France and Germany are also owed millions of dollars in unpaid bills, unnamed officials have told AFP news agency.

They said that Belgian, Dutch and South-East Asian companies were also affected.

UK diplomats told AFP that a broadcasting company, SIS Live, was lobbying the British High Commission to help it collect 30% of unpaid fees it says it is owed for transmitting the Games' TV coverage.

It is believed that some companies have, over a period of several months, been lobbying the organising committee to pay up and that about 250 containers of games equipment remain stuck in Delhi.

Experts say that there are two categories of companies: those who have fulfilled their contractual obligations and will eventually be paid and those whose contractual obligations are in dispute and who have, as a result, launched legal action.

Sleaze allegations

India's foreign minister said he would deal with the matter as soon as possible after his return to India.

"It has been brought to my notice and I would go back to India and take it up with the ministry of sports," news agency Press Trust of India quoted Mr Krishna as telling a news conference in the Australian city of Melbourne.

Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the organising committee, told AFP in Delhi on Thursday: "Last time we told [the Games accountants] to pay everything in full that is due under all agreements.

"Now we will check what is the position and what is the problem if there is one."

The Delhi Commonwealth Games was overshadowed by revelations of sleaze, incompetence and missed construction deadlines.

The budget for the event ballooned to an estimated $6bn - with the Central Vigilance Commission receiving complaints alleging that up to $1.8bn of Games money was misappropriated.

Earlier this month, India's top investigative agency questioned the organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi. He denies any wrongdoing.

He quit a Congress party position in November, weeks after the government ordered a probe into the alleged scam.

Two other senior officials from the organising committee were arrested on charges of forgery and cheating over the awarding of contracts before the event.

Last month, Mr Kalmadi's homes in the capital, Delhi, and in the western town of Pune, were raided by investigators.

Investigators also raided about a dozen locations, including the homes of organising committee secretary general, and the director general VK Verma.

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