Special Correspondent

"Iraqi authorities gave a contract on the basis of Natwar's letter"

  • Letter from Natwar carried to the Oil Minister, requesting coupons for Sehgal's firm
  • Handwriting experts are believed to have confirmed that the signature was indeed that of Natwar Singh

    NEW DELHI:The Justice R.S. Pathak Inquiry Authority is said to have concluded that the contracts, under the United Nations' oil for food programme for Iraq, to Andaleeb Sehgal and Aditya Khanna could not have come about without the former External Affairs Minister, K. Natwar Singh's intervention.

    The reported conclusion was reached after analysing information about the interactions Mr. Natwar Singh and his son, Jagat Singh, had with Iraqi officials.

    The Pathak report was handed over to the Prime Minister on Thursday evening, but even before Mr. Justice Pathak had reached the Prime Minister's Office portions of the report were available with sections of the media.

    The focus of the Authority's scrutiny was on three contracts that resulted in monetary benefits of $1,46,000 to Mr. Sehgal, Director of Hamdan Exports and a friend of Mr. Jagat Singh. After perusing details pertaining to the meetings Mr. Natwar Singh had with Tariq Aziz (Deputy Prime Minister) and the Oil Minister in the Saddam Hussein regime, the inquiry panel has reportedly concluded (a) that the Congress leader helped Mr. Sehgal get the contracts; and (b) without Mr. Natwar Singh's active involvement the contracts would not have come Mr. Sehgal's way.

    In one contract in which the Congress party was named as the non-contractual beneficiary (by the Volcker Committee), the Pathak Authority has reportedly concluded that Mr. Natwar Singh and Mr. Jagat Singh misused the Congress party's name.

    In the third contract, the Iraqi authorities decided on the basis of a letter Mr. Natwar Singh wrote requesting business for Hamdan Exports. Mr. Natwar Singh is believed to have denied before the Authority that he wrote such a letter, stating that probably his signature was forged.

    However, handwriting experts are believed to have confirmed for the panel that the signature indeed was that of Mr. Natwar Singh. During interrogation, Mr. Sehgal is understood to have confessed that he did carry the letter (from Mr. Natwar Singh to the Iraqi Oil Minister, requesting coupons for Hamdan Exports).

    For his separate meetings with the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and the Oil Minister in January 2001, Mr. Natwar Singh chose to take Mr. Jagat Singh and Mr. Sehgal with him.

    To the Oil Minister, Mr. Sehgal was reportedly introduced as the Hamdan man known to Mr. Natwar Singh.

    The pattern discerned by the Authority points to Mr. Natwar Singh using his public position (as chairman of the Congress Foreign Affairs cell) to get contracts for Mr. Sehgal and others.

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