Armed with Supreme Court verdict, govt to fight Devas abroad, says Finance Minister

Rs 8,200 cr Devas has sought in damages

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 18

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said the government would contest the adverse international arbitration awards totalling over $1.1 billion (about Rs 8,200 crore) filed by private firm Devas Multimedia.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said the government would contest the adverse international arbitration awards totalling over $1.1 billion (about Rs 8,200 crore) filed by private firm Devas Multimedia.

“The loss will not be borne by the Modi government. It is a fraud of Congress, by Congress (and) for Congress. The Congress must explain how the Cabinet was kept in the dark and how it took six years for the fraud deal to be cancelled. The party has no right to speak about crony capitalism,” said the minister while speaking about the complications resulting from the joint venture Devas struck in 2005 with Antrix, an ISRO unit.

A day earlier, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal filed by Devas and upheld orders by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) asking the promoters to wind up the company as the deal with Antrix was steeped in fraud.

Fraud by Cong

The Congress must explain how the Cabinet was kept in the dark and how it took six years for the fraud to be detected. Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister

But Sitharaman’s ire was directed at the UPA regime for taking six years to cancel the Devas-Antrix deal as well as the ignominy suffered to India’s image after international courts ordered the seizing of government property abroad to implement arbitration awards of over $1.1 billion. Devas and its investors had approached the international arbitration panel after the UPA government had cancelled the Devas-Antrix joint venture over the stink it raised.

Though Sitharaman only spoke of fighting the issue out and gave no details pending inter-ministerial consultations, the Supreme Court terming the deal as fraud will be of assistance to the government in its legal battles abroad where Devas is trying to enforce the arbitration awards by seeking the seizure of Indian assets such as those owned by Air India.

The apex court had said on Monday that the commercial relationship between Antrix and Devas was a “product of fraud perpetrated by Devas, every part of the plant that grew out of those seeds, such as the agreement, disputes, arbitral awards, etc., are all infected with the poison of fraud”. It also noted how Devas brought in an investment of Rs 579 crore but “siphoned off” Rs 488 crore.

Asked what the present government had done so far, Sitharaman said it was pursuing the company law cases through the courts and did not reply when asked if the arbitration courts would listen to the government since no one had been convicted in the cases filed by the ED and the CBI.

However, a statement by Devas shareholders described the seizure of Air India’s assets in Canada as “just a start”. “Additional actions are forthcoming that will underscore that India is an unsafe place to invest in. Using government agencies to launch bogus criminal investigations against Devas will be seen around the world for what it is—an Indian government willing to debase the country’s reputation by lashing out at its victims rather than paying what it owes them,’’ it alleged in the statement.

2005 spectrum deal that was cancelled

2005 ISRO unit Antrix signs a deal with Devas for providing multimedia services to mobile users

  • The govt provides S-band satellite spectrum to the joint venture firm
  • Union Cabinet, however, was kept in the dark, alleges Sitharaman

2011 UPA govt annuls deal over allegations of fraud

  • Devas moves foreign tribunals; India loses all 3 disputes and is told to pay damages worth Rs1.1 billion

2021 NCLT orders liquidation of Devas

2022 SC upholds the liquidation order

Eyeing Indian assets

Devas shareholders are pursuing Indian assets abroad. A French court ordered freezing of properties in Paris & shareholders got partial rights over Air India funds in Canada.

#Devas

Tribune Shorts


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