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Pathak report forwarded to three central agencies

The report, faulting Natwar Singh for "facilitating" the oil contracts, would be handed over to ED.

india Updated: Aug 08, 2006 21:20 IST

A report indicting former External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh in Iraq's oil-for-food scam has been forwarded to three economic investigative agencies, even as an angry opposition prevented parliament from functioning on Monday over the media leak of the report.

The report, faulting Natwar Singh for "influencing and facilitating" the oil contracts, would be handed over to the Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes and Central Board of Excise and Customs for follow up action, the government said in an Action Taken Report (ATR) tabled in both houses of parliament.

The ATR, as also the report of the Justice RS Pathak Inquiry Authority, were tabled amid high drama, with the opposition in the Lok Sabha demanding an apology from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the leak, and seeking to move privilege motions against him.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, however, stood their ground, saying they were studying the privilege motions that had been received and would rule on them.

It was only after this that members would be permitted to speak on the issue, the presiding officers said.

The noisy scenes, however, continued and forced three adjournments in each of the houses before they were finally adjourned for the day.

The opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) announced it would boycott the Lok Sabha on Tuesday to protest Chatterjee's "suppression" of their voice on Monday.

"The opposition leaders will not attend their daily meeting tomorrow with the speaker. Nor will they sign the daily register to protest the suppression of the voice of the opposition in the house by him today," Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) deputy leader in the Lok Sabha VK Malhotra said.

The NDA will meet on Tuesday to work out its strategy in the Rajya Sabha.

Earlier on Monday, the cabinet met under the chairmanship of Manmohan Singh to discuss the Pathak report and the ATR and decided to accept them in toto. Finance Minister P Chidambaram is believed to have worked through the weekend to prepare the ATR.

In the ATR, the government said it "has decided to forward the (Pathak) report in its entirety to the (three investigating agencies) to be treated as information and for such action as may appear to them warranted under law".

In his 105-page report submitted on Thursday, Pathak has given a clean chit to the Congress party, finding no evidence of its involvement in any transactions linked to the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.

As to whether any Indian entity or individual received any money, any other consideration or paid any money or any other consideration connected with the Iraqi oil-for-food programme, the ATR mentions Aditya Khanna, Andaleeb Sehgal, Sehgal Consultants and Hamdaan Exports.

What the Pathak panel did find was a letter by Natwar Singh written to then Iraqi oil minister Amer Mohammed Rasheed in January 2001, soon after the Congress delegation's trip, introducing a family friend, Andaleeb Sehgal of Hamdaan Exports.

"It is thus evident that a meeting took place with the Iraqi oil minister where Natwar Singh, his son Jagat and Andaleeb were present. It is reasonable to infer that there was some talk about the allocation of oil," says Justice Pathak.

"It is apparent that the meeting of Singh with Iraqi oil minister carried great meaning. That can be judged from the fact that the State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) opened its doors to Jagat and Andaleeb the very next day after the meeting between Singh and Rasheed," says the report.

According to the Pathak report, after examining scores of documents and interrogating over 17 people, both Andaleeb and businessman Aditya Khanna got a total sum of $146,000, which amounts to five cents per barrel.

"The entire amount was received in the bank account of Indrus trading company, located in Jersey, Channel Islands. This was to be distributed in the ratio of 4:1 between Andaleeb and Aditya Khanna," the report said.

In the final analysis, Pathak says, Andaleeb received $68,293 while Aditya Khanna, his business partner, got $32,558.

The BJP's Malhotra was quick to rubbish the Pathak report.

"This is a 'managed' report. It has no authority. What happened to the letters written by (Congress President) Sonia Gandhi? Why have they not been produced? Who took advantage of the oil coupons?" he queried.

The inquiry committee was set up November 11 last year to examine the veracity of a probe by an UN-appointed panel that alleged that some individuals, political parties and companies - including those from India - were beneficiaries of the Iraqi oil-for-food programme when Saddam Hussein was in power.

"Natwar Singh, mentioned as a non-contractual beneficiary with respect to Contract Number M/09/54, was a beneficiary in so far that the role played by him in influencing the procurement of the contracts had fructified," the ATR said.

It said while there was no evidence to suggest that Natwar Singh had personally benefited monetarily from the scam that cost him his job in November, there was enough evidence to suggest that he had misused his powers.

But speaking to reporters outside parliament, a nonplussed Natwar Singh said he was ready to face any action.

"Aage aage dekhiye hota hai kya (Wait for what happens next)," he replied, preferring to keep his future course of action close to his chest.

The government said the documents available with the Pathak committee were "authentic and reliable" and that the transactions of two contracts that were probed were genuine.