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Eight nations accuse India over unpaid Games bills

NEW DELHI, Mar 14 – Eight countries have lodged an official complaint with the Indian government over $74 million of unpaid bills after the Commonwealth Games, saying the delays could affect future investment.

Senior diplomats from seven European countries and Australia signed a letter demanding action over broken contracts and valuable equipment that is still stuck in Indian customs since the Games were held in October last year.

The Games were hit by poor preparations and shoddily-finished stadiums despite an estimated budget of $6 billion. A number of senior figures have since been arrested in a widening police probe into corruption.

"The long delay in settling these matters is damaging India’s national reputation, denting the confidence of foreign business and raising doubts about the enforcement of contracts," the envoys wrote.

Australia, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland all signed the letter, which was delivered to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee last month.

Diplomats confirmed the letter after it was printed in the Hindustan Times on Monday.

Australian companies have also complained bitterly about unpaid fees for organising the opening and closing ceremonies, while British firm SIS Live is in a legal battle to be paid in full for broadcasting services.

Indian police have arrested the Delhi 2010 organising committee\’s director general, V. K. Verma, and its secretary general, Lalit Bhanot, over alleged financial irregularities.

The national anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), received complaints alleging up to $1.8 billion of Games money was misappropriated.

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Swiss Timing, which has worked at many recent Olympic Games, recently took out full-page advertisements in the Indian press to deny allegations of kickbacks after police accused it of over-charging.

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