M A I N   N E W S

Dayal to hold probe into Volcker charge
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

  • Task to be completed in three months
  • Dayal has no judicial powers; only to collect relevant documents
  • Probe into Hamdan Exports role on anvil
  • Natwar sees no reason to quit

New Delhi, November 6
After several days of hectic consultations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today named former UN bureaucrat Virendra Dayal, as his special envoy to go into the Volcker Committee report which has named External Affairs Minister K.Natwar Singh and the Congress as non-contractual beneficiaries in Iraqi oil deals.

A former diplomat, Mr Dayal, who has served as undersecretary-general to the UN, has been entrusted with the task of liaising with the UN and its member-states to get all relevant material, including that containing “unverified references” to Indian entities and individuals mentioned in the Volcker Committee report on the Iraqi food-for-oil programme. .

Mr Dayal is also a former member of the National Human Rights Commission.

Although Congress leaders claimed throughout the day that Mr Natwar Singh would have to step down once a probe was announced, there was little evidence of that till late tonight.

Mr Natwar Singh ruled out his resignation, saying the appointment of Mr Dayal as special envoy for gathering evidence on the oil payoff allegations vindicated his stand.

The minister was quoted by a leading television channel as saying that he was not planning to put in his papers.

The announcement on the fact-finding mission, as it is being officially described, significantly does not specifically mention either Mr Natwar Singh or the Congress though it is fairly evident that Mr Dayal will be expected to obtain all necessary documents to find out the basis on which the Volcker Committee had named the minister and the Congress.

Mr Dayal has no judicial or legal powers and his only task is to collect all relevant documents, it was clarified.

Mr Dayal, who has been equipped with full powers to execute all responsibilities entrusted to him, has three months to complete the task on hand.

The PMO, which made this announcement late tonight, has also said that further measures in this matter will be announced in coming days.

UPA sources hinted that another committee or a judicial probe may be instituted to focus on the role of Swiss firm Masefield and Indian firm Hamdan Exports, which have been named in the UN inquiry committee report as having received payments in these deals during Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The nature of the inquiry and its exact terms of reference were critical as this would decide whether Mr Natwar Singh would continue to hold on to his job.

The minister appears to have got a reprieve as the proposed judicial probe, which will be equipped with legal powers, will focus on the two firms named in the Volcker report while Mr Dayal has only been entrusted with the task of collecting the relevant documents which contain references to the Congress and Mr Natwar Singh.

The second inquiry, it is learnt, will also be probing whether the two firms named in the report acted independently or at somebody’s behest.

The role of Hamdan Exports has assumed special significance as its partner-owner Andleeb Sehgal is a close friend of Mr Natwar Singh’s son, Jagat Singh.

Reports, which have been denied by Mr Andleeb Sehgal, reveal that his and Mr Jagat Singh’s travels to Iraq and Jordan coincided on more than one occasion and that he had deposited large sums of money in a Jordan bank meant essentially as kickbacks to Saddam Hussein for the oil contract.

That the modalities of the probe were a crucial factor was evident from the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had yet another round of discussions with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and his senior Cabinet colleagues Pranab Mukherjee, Shivraj Patil, H.R.Bhardwaj, Arjun Singh and P. Chidambaram. Later, Mr Natwar Singh had a 90-minute one-to-one meeting with the PM after which the minister read out a bland statement, saying they discussed the “unsubstantiated references” in the Volcker report and pressing foreign policy issues.


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