Antrix-Devas case a fraud against country, we’ll fight it: FM Sitharaman


new delhi, jan 18: The Antrix-Devas matter was a fraud against the country, and the previous Congress administration should explain how the fraud was perpetrated, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
The Finance Minister said Devas claimed to own a technology that did not exist. Based on this, an agreement with Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) was signed, Sitharaman said. “The fraud began there,” Sitharaman said.
The United Progressive Alliance-led government took six years to cancel the agreement Antrix entered with Devas in 2005 even as it was a fraud against the country.
“Congress allowed blatantly selling of resources of Government of India for pittance,” Sithraman said.
On Monday, the Supreme Court had upheld the winding up of Devas Multimedia, stating the case involves a fraud of a huge magnitude that can't be brushed under the carpet.
The apex court had dismissed the appeal filed by Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd, and said when National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) have recorded concurrent findings on facts, it is not open to this Court to reappreciate evidence.
“We will now take this SC order, and make sure that justice is served on international fora,” Sitharaman said.
The manner in which agreement was entered into with Devas was not known to the then Cabinet, and the way in which a misleading note was put to the Cabinet shows the affairs of the company were conducted in a fraudulent manner.
Antrix had applied for liquidation of Devas, and NCLT and NCLAT had allowed liquidation of the firm. The case was taken to the Supreme Court, and the apex court upheld the liquidation of Devas, Sitharaman said.
Now, the damages being claimed by Devas is $562.5 million plus interest from 2015. Telcom Devas Mauritius and Devas Employees Mauritiushave claimed $93.3 million and $112 million.
Sitharaman, reading out the Supreme Court judgment, said Devas brought in a total of Rs 579 crore, but almost 85 per cent was siphoned out of India, partly towards establishment of a subsidiary in the US partly towards business support services, and litigation expenses.
“Till today we are fighting one after the other to save taxpayers money, which would have otherwise gone for paying or the damages because of this agreement,” Sitharaman said.
Since the Supreme Court has upheld the order of NCLT and NCLAT, the winding up of the company would begin, Ministry of Corporate Affairs Secretary Rajesh Verma said. Liquidator has already been appointed, and has now taken over the management of Devas. It will take over the assets both in India and abroad of Devas. Verma said.
The Supreme Court in its judgment said it does not know if the action of Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of Isro, in seeking the winding up of Devas may send a wrong message to the community of investors.
"But allowing Devas and its shareholders to reap the benefits of their fraudulent action, may nevertheless send another wrong message, namely, that by adopting fraudulent means and by bringing into India an investment in a sum of Rs 579 crore, the investors can hope to get tens of thousands of crores of rupees, even after siphoning off Rs 488 crore," the bench said.
A top government official said that the decision by the Canadian Court, that Air India is an alter ego of Republic of India, will not impact the handover process to Tata sons. The official said that the handover process is going on smoothly and the airline is no longer an entity belonging to the Government of India.
The court rejected the submission that the actual motive behind Antrix seeking the winding up of Devas, is to deprive Devas, of the benefits of a unanimous award passed by the International Chamber of Commerce Arbitral tribunal, and the two BIT awards and that such attempts on the part of a corporate entity, wholly owned by the government, would send a wrong message to international investors.
After the Supreme Court’s ruling, Jay Newman, a senior advisor to Devas shareholders, said the decision is neither a setback nor a surprise. “It was scripted for months.
The Modi government will now appeal to global courts waving the NCLT ruling as yet another bogus excuse to evade payment. Courts in the US, Netherlands, Canada and France, have seen through the previous sham proceedings and evasion tactics, and this ruling is no different. Devas shareholders will continue to identify and seize Indian state assets around the world until the debt has been paid,” Newman said in a statement.

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