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Commonwealth chiefs sacked

NEW DELHI, January 24 – India's sports ministry on Monday removed the top two organisers of last year's tainted Commonwealth Games in New Delhi to enable an "unhindered" police probe into alleged corruption.

Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Games organising committee, and Lalit Bhanot, its secretary general, were sacked "in the interest of impartial and unhindered investigations," the ministry said in a statement.

The decision to remove the pair was taken by ruling Congress party politician Ajay Maken, who last week took over as sports minister from M.S. Gill following a cabinet reshuffle.

"In light of the concerns expressed by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and in the interest of impartial and unhindered investigations, it has been decided to remove Kalmadi and Bhanot," Maken said in the statement.

Both Kalmadi, a ruling party politician and president of the Indian Olympic Association, and Bhanot were asked by the minister to hand over to Jarnail Singh, the chief executive officer of the organising committee.

The October 3-14 Games, marred by venue delays and chaotic organisation, were also hit by claims of massive financial irregularities as the budget ballooned three times to an estimated $6 billion.

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

An initial report by the CVC into the Games confirmed the use of sub-standard construction materials in a host of Games-related building contracts and deliberate cost overruns.

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Maken last week ordered the Games organisers to sort out differences with foreign contractors and sports bodies amid complaints and legal threats over millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

Maken set a 10-day deadline for government officials in the organising committee to settle all "legitimate" dues.

Firms in Australia, Britain, France and Germany were among those owed money, while national Commonwealth Games associations complained of missing refunds and travel subsidies.

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