The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Showcause slapped on Natwar & co

New Delhi, Sept. 3: Suspended Congress leader K. Natwar Singh today found himself in more trouble after the Enforcement Directorate served him a showcause notice in the oil-for-food scam.

Notices were also sent to his son Jagat and five others — Andaleeb Sehgal, Aditya Khanna, Zameer Zaidi, Vikas Dhar, and Asad Khan — and two firms for alleged violations under the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

Sources said they have to reply to the notices by September 14. If found guilty, they could face financial penalties.

A furious Natwar said his lawyers would give a befitting reply.

The former foreign minister, who is touring his constituency in Rajasthan to muster political support, said the showcause was “very unfortunate” as the government-appointed Pathak commission had given him a clean chit after nine months of probe.

Natwar said the Pathak commission had made it clear that he had not benefited financially in any way from the UN-sponsored programme.

The notices, which followed a meeting between the finance ministry and the directorate, came 10 months after the government set up the Pathak panel to find out if Indian entities were involved in the scam.

The panel indicted Natwar for misusing his position in the Congress to secure oil contracts for his son’s friends but was silent on whether he and Jagat were guilty of financial misdemeanour.

According to the Pathak commission’s report, Natwar and Jagat helped Sehgal and Khanna get contracts under the oil-for-food scheme. The report, tabled in Parliament on August 7, says the two businessmen passed on the contracts to Swiss oil company Masefield AG, which paid them a commission of $146,000.

The transactions took place in 2001 after Natwar led a Congress delegation to meet top leaders in the then Saddam Hussein regime.

The comprehensive notices give details of letters Natwar allegedly wrote to Iraqi officials to introduce Andaleeb. Directorate sources said Asad, son of Congress leader Aslam Khan, also allegedly got a contract.

The directorate had questioned Natwar and Jagat after receiving bank documents from Iraq and Jordan. Officials said the directorate’s probe also focused on a crucial aspect — whether Natwar and Jagat were financial beneficiaries of the contracts.

In Rajasthan, Natwar, who has openly accused finance minister P. Chidambaram of letting the directorate loose on Jagat and him, said it was a “sorry” state of affairs that a particular central government department was going overboard in “harassing and defaming” him. But he added that those who “dream of defaming me” will not be successful in their designs.

Asked if the notice on him was served at the behest of the Union finance minister, he said the directorate “comes under” the finance minister. “I will not name anybody. But, without the FM’s approval, the ED cannot serve the notice.”

Natwar said the directorate’s move has “surprised” him.“I can only say that they (the directorate) are trying to justify their 10-11 months’ work though they have found nothing against me.”

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