The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iraq team smells oil

New Delhi, Dec. 15: An Enforcement Directorate team that went to Iraq has filed a preliminary report that says Natwar Singh’s son Jagat and his friend Andaleeb Sehgal had held “some discussions” on oil coupons with officials in Baghdad.

After spending about a week in Iraq and Jordan, the special team of the directorate submitted the initial report to the finance ministry yesterday.

Sources said the investigating team, which returned from Jordan on December 13, has confirmed that Jagat and Andaleeb had gone to Iraq when Natwar was present there with a delegation in 2001.

A similar claim attributed to former Croatian ambassador Anil Mathrani had touched off a fresh uproar that cost Natwar, who was forced to resign as external affairs minister, his minister-without-portfolio berth, too.

Mathrani was also quoted as saying that the way Jagat was accommodated and treated in Baghdad gave the impression that he was being counted as a member of the delegation, though he was not part of it.

The sources did not elaborate on the contents of the directorate’s preliminary report.

But they added that the document was the decisive factor that prompted the finance ministry to give the nod to question Jagat.

The directorate, which had put Jagat on notice a few days ago to be ready to be questioned, called him over to its Delhi office today and questioned him for nearly eight hours.

Once Jagat’s replies are analysed and the winter session of Parliament gets over later this month, the directorate will decide whether to seek permission to question Natwar.

After completing its work in Iraq, the directorate team went to Amman and approached the Bank of Jordan to get the account details of Hamadan Exports, Andaleeb’s company that has been accused of making illegal payments to the Saddam Hussein regime.

But the bank refused to part with any information as the team did not have the requisite documents to establish that Hamadan could have committed an offence by parking funds there.

Sources said that during the long hours of questioning today, directorate officials showed Jagat some documents that were handed over by Virendra Dayal, the special envoy appointed to collect information on references to India in the Paul Volcker report on the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.

The sources said Jagat told the directorate officials that he would consult his own documents and get back to them.

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