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Mathrani questioned by ED
RAW, IB join interrogation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 4
Even as Minister without portfolio K. Natwar was being increasingly isolated in the Congress for being adamant in not resigning from the government, India’s erstwhile ambassador to Croatia Aneil Mathrani was being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies about his controversial statement pertaining to the UN’s oil-for-food scam in Iraq.

Mr Mathrani was taken for questioning within hours of his return from Zagreb her last night and all his statements are being closely scrutinised, according to sources in the ED.

The interrogation can be a prolonged affair with the Research and Analysis Wing and Intelligence Bureau also joining in.

Efforts to contact Mr Mathrani drew a blank with his brother residing in South Delhi stressing that even though Mr Aneil is in Delhi he will not be available to the media.

The Mathrani’s residence in Vasunt Kung is, however, being guarded by a police team. Simultaneously, an ED team headed by Special Director S.K. Panda is leaving for Baghdad to talk to Iraqi officials about Mr Natwar Singh’s meetings in Baghdad in January 2001. The purpose of the ED team visiting Jordan and Iraq is to seek assistance from other agencies in these two countries to secure the details of the bank accounts into which the Iraqi oil payments were allegedly deposited.

Clearly, the ED which has assured the UPA government of conducting its inquiry expeditiously wants to talk to as many people as possible in Iraq to have a clear and proper picture. This assumes significance with Mr Mathrani’s statements that Mr Natwar Singh had facilitated the transaction of the Iraqi oil to his son Jagat Singh and his cousin Andleep Sehgal who reportedly formed part of a Congress delegation which visited Baghdad at that time.

Informed sources said that Mr Mathrani has been under increasing pressure from certain quarters following the revelations contained in the UN appointed Paul Vocker Committee report.

Earlier, Mr Mathrani had categorically denied his or the Congress party’s involvement when they were named as “non-contractural beneficiaries” in the $ 64 billion Iraq oil-for-food programme.

Meanwhile, Mr Natwar Singh’s son Jagat Singh hinted at a conspiracy against his father.

Mr Jagat Singh said he was not part of the official four-member Congress delegation led by Natwar Singh to Iraq in 2001. He observed he had accompanied his father in an individual capacity as a Youth Congress leader to assist his ailing father.

He claimed that the then Youth Congress President Surjewala knew about it.

Mr Jagat Singh accused Mr Mathrani of changing his statements and creating confusion. He ridiculed Mr Mathrani for stating that he (Mr Jagat Singh) had joined the Congress delegation in Jordan.

That Mr Jagat Singh was not a member of the Congress delegation headed by Mr Natwar Singh has been stated by senior Congressmen A.R. Antulay and P. Shiv Shankar.

Armed with extra ammunition in the form of Mr Mathrani’s statement to India Today, the Opposition with the BJP in the vanguard is determined to increase the tempo of its campaign for the removal of Mr Natwar Singh from the Manmohan Singh Cabinet and Mrs Sonia Gandhi as the Chairperson of the National Advisory Council of the UPA.

Senior BJP leader Pramod Mahajan had stressed over the weekend that unless the Prime Minister came out with a clear statement on Mr Mathrani’s revelations, the turbulence in Parliament is unlikely to go away.


Natwar vehement on not resigning
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 4
As the Opposition sharpened its knives for Mr K. Natwar Singh in Parliament on Monday, the Volcker report-tainted Minister without Portfolio unequivocally stated that he will not resign, thus making it clear that proceedings in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha would be stalled tomorrow.

Mr Natwar Singh’s statement came this evening even as the Opposition has sent clear signals that it will not settle for anything less than the minister’s resignation or ouster from the Cabinet. As a result, tempers are likely to be feverish in both Houses of Parliament and hardly any business is expected to be transacted in Parliament tomorrow.

Mr Natwar Singh categorically stated that “I refuse to sacrifice myself”, saying that such a step would amount to “admission of guilt”. He maintained that he was not guilty of any wrongdoing in law or spirit and argued: “It is not because of any love of office that I am not resigning. To resign now would look, to many people, as an admission of guilt.”

Interestingly, he batted not only for himself but also on behalf of the Congress Party, a far cry from the conduct and statements of the Congress which has thus far talked about itself whenever its spokespersons have made on-record statements with regard to the Volcker report, the author of Mr Natwar Singh’s misery.

He also dismissed the allegation that he added the name of his son Jagat Singh and his friend Andaleeb Sehgal to the official Congress delegation that visited Baghdad in 2001, saying that he had no authority to do so. He clarified that the Congress delegation that visited Baghdad comprised only of Mr P. Shiv Shankar, Mr A.R. Antulay, Mr Aniel Matherani and himself.

Today was yet another day when the Indian dramatis personae, mentioned in the Volcker report, made statements and clarifications which were significantly at variance with their own positions just a couple of days earlier.

Mr Jagat Singh, who had days ago insisted that he had gone to Iraq in 2001 as part of the Congress delegation headed by his father, today clarified that his visit was in this personal capacity, though as the then General Secretary of the Youth Congress he looked at the visit as an opportunity to cement ties with the youth activists of Iraq’s then ruling Baath Party. Mr Jagat Singh also clarified that the Congress had not purchased his air tickets.

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