Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the government will use the Supreme Court’s order calling the 2005 deal between Indian Space Research Organisation’s commercial arm Antrix and privately-owned Devas Multimedia a “fraud”, to counter seizure of its properties, reported PTI.
“It is a fraud of Congress, by Congress (and) for Congress,” the finance minister told reporters.
In 2005, Devas Multimedia, which was set up in 2004 by a few former ISRO employees, had entered into an agreement with the space agency’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation to get bandwidth facilities in two proposed satellites for a range of services in the digital media and broadcasting business.
Devas Multimedia was supposed to pay $300 million, or about Rs 2,238 crore, to Antrix over a 12-year period, reported The Indian Express. However, in 2011, the United Progressive Alliance government cancelled the agreement after allegations of a quid pro quo had surfaced. The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate were tasked with investigating the deal.
Antrix had approached the National Company Law Tribunal seeking liquidation of Devas. The tribunal ordered the liquidation of the company. Following this, Devas Multimedia approached the Supreme Court, which upheld the liquidation on Monday, and said the contention of Antrix that fraud had happened “stood established”.
On Tuesday, Sitharaman said that the Congress took six years to cancel the deal and also did not take any steps to fight the arbitration proceedings Devas brought against the cancellation of the agreement.
India had lost all the three disputes and has to pay a total $1.2 billion, or Rs 8,953 crore, in damages.
The shareholders of the private company are now pursuing Indian assets abroad to recover the amount and have got a French court order to freeze Indian properties in Paris and also got partial rights of funds maintained by Air India in Canada.
At the press briefing, Sitharaman said that the Supreme Court order upholding the liquidation of Devas Multimedia would be cited in international courts to challenge enforcement actions against the private company.
“No country which respects rule of law will ignore these facts,” she said.
Sitharaman described the Congress a “master of corruption” and claimed the Union government is still battling in many international courts because of the “greed” of the Congress.
“This kind of selling of primary endowments like wavelengths, satellites or spectrum bands, giving it away to private parties and making money from private parties and making a deal out of it, marks the feature of Congress governments,” she alleged.
The Antrix-Devas deal was a fraud by the Congress in which spectrum used by defence forces was given for “pittance”, the finance minister alleged.
“This is the level of shameless corruption,” she said.
She also criticised the Congress for allowing the sale of resources of the government for pittance.
“We are fighting to save taxpayers’ money which otherwise would have gone to pay for the scandalous Antrix-Devas deal,” she added.