Natwar trashes Volcker report, calls it a pack of lies
New Delhi, October 31
The Minister’s stand is that neither he nor his son, Mr Jagat Singh, or any of his relatives ever had anything to do with the kind of dealings or irregularities mentioned by the Volcker report.
Table 3 and 5 of the Volcker report are relevant in the context of Mr Natwar Singh’s alleged involvement in the Oil-for-Food Programme.
A direct reference to Mr Natwar Singh appears in Table 3 under the sub-heading: ‘‘Summary of Oil Sales by Non-Contractual Beneficiary’’ It identifies a Switzerland-based company ‘‘Masefield AG’’ through which the Minister and the Congress party had allegedly encashed the oil vouchers received from the Iraqi Government at a premium. It says the company was allocated four million barrels of oil, out of which 1,936,000 were actually lifted. The report identifies Mr K Natwar Singh as ‘‘member of Indian Congress Party’’.
Table 5 shows links between Singapore-based company Hamdan Export — which Janata Party leader Subramaniam Swamy has reportedly described as ‘‘a front company’’ of Mr Natwar Singh’s son Mr Jagat Singh — and Masefield AG.
The Minister, who has got a clean chit from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seems to have got a concession from the Left Front which, unlike the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has not come out with any statement on the issue today. Besides, there are no indications that the Left parties will support the BJP when the latter raises the issue in the winter session of Parliament, beginning from November 23.
The Left parties have merely demanded a probe into the matter to get further evidence and details before reaching any conclusion. The Congress party todayrejected the demand for any inquiry into the allegations made in the Volcker report, maintaining that there was not ‘‘even a trace of corroborative evidence’’ to prove that the party and Mr Natwar Singh were beneficiaries in Iraq’s Oil-for-Food Programme.
The BJP upped its ante on the issue and today announced that it will raise the issue at every fora, including Parliament. BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley expressed disappointment at the reaction of the Congress, the Left parties and Mr Natwar Singh himself and accused the Prime Minister of constituting himself as ‘‘a kangaroo court’’ and giving ‘‘a pre-determined decision’’ without any investigations. The BJP and JD(U) have demanded the resignation of Mr Natwar Singh, saying he could not stay even for a minute in his post after the findings in the UN report.
The PMO, in a statement after Mr Natwar Singh met the Prime Minister yesterday and categorically denied his involvement in the alleged Iraqgate, had said: ‘‘The Prime Minister agreed that the facts mentioned in Table 3 of the report of the Independent Inquiry Committee are insufficient to arrive at any adverse conclusion against the External Affairs Minister and stands by him.’’
Mr Natwar Singh has already gone on record dismissing the Volcker report as ‘‘baseless and untrue’’. In a statement issued from Frankfurt on October 29 while he was returning from his official tour of Russia, Mr Natwar Singh had said: ‘‘My record in public life for the past fifty years and more has been an open book. My personal integrity has never been questioned. ...This is obviously part of the continuing campaign to malign the Congress party and its senior leaders and functionaries.’’
UN report has glaring errors, says Cong
New Delhi, October 31
At the same time, the party’s battery of legal experts is scrutinising the report to see what legal options are available to them under international law.
While their report is still awaited, senior Congress leaders indicated that the party could place its protest on record in a letter to the UN and Paul Volcker in which they will also point to the loopholes in the enquiry report and the discriminatory attitude shown towards the Congress.
AICC functionaries said they had examined all their old financial records and found nothing irregular which, it was stated, had given them the necessary confidence to question the insinuations against the Congress in the UN enquiry report listing beneficiaries of illicit payments in oil deals during Saddam Hussien’s regime. At the same time, the party is not discounting the possibility of an individual invoking the Congress name to seal a deal.
For the second day, the Congress steadfastly rejected the charge and in fact, went a step further to question the methodology used by the author in the preparation of the report. As on Saturday, the Congress confined its remarks to the party, stating that External Affairs Minister K.Natwar Singh, also named a beneficiary in the report, has already rejected the charge while the Prime Minister has stated that he stood by the minister.
Reiterating that the Congress has been incorrectly named, Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the report has “glaring errors and gaping holes” and that it cannot be accepted in toto. He said unlike other entities named in the report, no effort was made to seek the Congress party’s response to the charge. Besides this discrimination, Mr Sharma said there was also no corroborative evidence to support the charge against the Congress.
“These factual and procedural errors have put a question mark on the charges made in the inquiry report,” Mr Sharma added.
Although the Congress has drawn a clear distinction between the charge against the party and Mr K. Natwar Singh, the party has little option but to back the minister as it would weaken its own case if it were to accept the insinuations against him. However, the reprieve could be short-lived if further investigations do throw up damming evidence against Mr Natwar Singh.