FM Sitharaman on Devas-Antrix issue: Cong has no moral right to speak about crony capitalism
New Delhi: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday accused Congress-led UPA of entering into a "fraud" and "scandalous" deal with Devas Multimedia by allocating S-band spectrum used by the defence for "pittance".
At a press conference, she said the government is now fighting in every court to save taxpayers' money that would otherwise go towards paying for arbitration awards that Devas has won against the cancellation of the 2005 deal.
She said the Supreme Court on January 17 has comprehensively upheld the liquidation of Devas Multimedia on grounds that it was incorporated with fraudulent intentions.
Her comments came as Devas shareholders pursue Indian assets abroad to recover USD 1.29 billion that international arbitration tribunals awarded over a cancelled satellite contract. They have got a French court order for freezing Indian properties in Paris and are seeking Air India funds in Canada.
The 2005 agreement was "a fraud on people of India, fraud against the country," she said, adding the S-band spectrum, which is otherwise used for defence purposes only, was given away for pittance.
Devas, she said, promised to deliver on things on which it didn't even have rights for.
In 2005, Devas Multimedia signed an agreement with Antrix- the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)- to provide multimedia services to mobile users using the leased S-band satellite spectrum.
The deal was cancelled in 2011 on the ground that the auction of the broadband spectrum was mired in fraud and that the government needed the S-band satellite spectrum for national security and other social purposes.
Devas Multimedia initiated arbitration against the annulment at the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC). Two separate arbitrations were also initiated under the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) by Mauritius investors in Devas Multimedia under the India-Mauritius BIT and by Deutsche Telekom- a German company- under the India- Germany BIT. India lost all three disputes and has to pay a total of USD 1.29 billion in damages.
The minister said that arbitration tribunals have awarded USD 1.2 billion plus cost and interest on pleas by Devas shareholders against cancellation of Antrix deal.
Sitharaman said her government was fighting in all courts to save taxpayers' money that otherwise would be going for payment of awards of such a fraud deal