Justice R.S. Pathak Inquiry Authority traces money trail to Andaleeb Sehgal and Aditya Khanna
Money was not transferred to Natwar, Jagat Sehgal, Khanna misused Congress name
NEW DELHI:The Justice R.S. Pathak Inquiry Authority, which investigated the Iraqi oil-for-food scam, has found that the former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, and his son Jagat Singh, an MLA from Rajasthan, misused their positions in getting contracts.
The 110-page report, including 22 pages of annexure, was submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday. It traced the money trail to Andaleeb Sehgal, Director of Hamdan Exports and a friend of Mr. Jagat Singh; and Aditya Khanna, a relative of Mr. Natwar Singh and brother of Arvind Khanna, a Congress MLA from Punjab. Mr. Sehgal and Mr. Aditya Khanna reportedly transferred the money to their Swiss bank accounts, the report said.
Both Mr. Sehgal and Mr. Khanna "misused" the Congress party's name at every stage. The Pathak panel found during investigations that Mr. Natwar Singh, misusing his position, had written several letters to the Iraqi Oil Minister. This swung the contracts in favour of Mr. Sehgal and Mr. Khanna.
(According to PTI, Mr. Sehgal and Mr. Khanna, in turn, passed on the contracts to the Swiss company Masefield AG, which drew oil and paid them a commission, the report said. On a cut of five cents a barrel, Mr. Sehgal and Mr. Khanna received a total commission of $1,46,000, which they divided between themselves in the ratio of 4:1.
The former Indian Ambassador to Croatia, Aniel Matherani, who was part of a four-member delegation led by Mr. Natwar Singh to Baghdad in January 2001, was exonerated of any wrongdoing.)
According to the report, the money was not transferred to either Mr. Natwar Singh or Mr. Jagat Singh, highly placed government sources said here.
Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials, who probed the Indian angle in the scam, questioned Mr. Natwar Singh and his son in detail.
The ED also questioned Mr. Sehgal, who was mentioned in the Volcker Committee Report on Iraq's oil-for-food programme, as well as Mr. Matherani. Mr. Natwar Singh's name appeared in the Volcker Report as a non-contractual beneficiary.
Congress leaders Vijay Dhar and Jammeel Zaidi were also questioned by the ED, which looked into the dealings of Indians with the ousted Saddam Hussein regime in the oil-for-food programme under the U.N. aegis between 1996 and 2003.
The Government in November last announced the scope of the probe by the Authority into the references made in the Volcker Report to the former External Affairs Minister and the Congress. The Authority was vested with powers under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, including the powers of a civil court for summoning witnesses and documents and receiving evidence. The sources said the Pathak report would now be placed before the Union Cabinet and an Action Taken Report prepared. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram declined to offer any comment.
We're vindicated: Natwar
Mr. Natwar Singh said the Pathak report had held that neither he nor his son derived any financial benefit. He questioned how aspersions could be cast on him and the Congress party given a clean chit.
"The report of Justice Pathak says that my son and I have derived no financial benefit. That is the crux of the matter," Mr. Natwar Singh told reporters at his house, after the Inquiry Authority submitted its report .
Mr. Natwar Singh, who said he would not take any question, read out a statement in which he claimed that he and his son had been "fully vindicated." Denying he had sought any favour for Mr. Sehgal, Mr. Singh demanded that the letters purportedly written by him introducing his son's friend to the Iraqi regime be made public.