M A I N   N E W S

Commissions not illegal, says Bhim Singh
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 3
Giving a new twist to the controversy over the Volcker Report, Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) Chief Bhim Singh today said there was “nothing illegal” in “surcharge payments” in the UN Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq though these could not be defended on moral grounds.

Talking to mediapersons here, Mr Bhim Singh, whose JKNPP had ties with former Iraq President Saddam Hussain’s Ba’th party, said the surcharge was paid by companies in Iraqi oil sale under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme.

The JKNPP chief said he had also been offered contract by the Iraqi regime when he visited Baghdad but he had not accepted it.

“I told them that my conscience does not allow me to barter my love and support for Iraq for monetary gain,” he said. The JKNPP chief said payment of surcharge by companies selling Iraqi oil “was not illegal.” “It is like tax impose on commodities that are traded,” he said.

Answering questions, Mr Bhim Singh said he was not disputing the contents of the Volcker committee report. “I am not disputing facts of the report,” he said. On External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and the Congress being mentioned in the Volcker Report as “non-contractual” beneficiaries of Iraqi oil sales in 2001 under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme, Mr Bhim Singh said there was no reason for the External Affairs Minister to resign.

“Why should he (Mr Natwar Singh) wait to make a statement in Parliament. He should speak now as I have done,” Mr Bhim Singh said.

He said while it was for Mr Natwar Singh and the Congress to answer queries about their being mentioned as non-contractual beneficiaries, all political parties accept “donations.” Asked if surcharge payments were not illegal, why he had not accepted the contract for oil sale, Mr Bhim Singh said he had done so on moral grounds. “But standards of morality of two individuals cannot be compared,” he said.

The Panthers Party chief said he had seen Mr Natwar Singh’s name among non-contractual beneficiaries in the oil-for-food transactions in Iraq on a website. Replying to another query, he said the Volcker report was aimed at framing Saddam Hussain.

Mr Bhim Singh, who has written a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, expressed satisfaction that the final report of the Volcker Committee had cleared his position and mentioned that the contract allotted to him was not accepted. 

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