A day ago, the apex court had upheld the NCLAT order to wind up Devas.
Sitharaman said that the government of India will now use the apex court ruling to oppose compensations awarded in millions of dollars to the company’s foreign investors in international courts to “stop any loss of taxpayers’ money”.
Calling the SC ruling a “comprehensive order” that had called the Devas deal being “infected with poison of fraud”, FM Sitharaman directed her attack on the then Manmohan Singh-led UPA government, saying it was a “corruption for Congress, of Congress and by the Congress”.
She accused the then UPA government of misusing power to give away the “sensitive S-band spectrum”, used only for national security purposes”, to a private company under this 2005 satellite deal.
The finance minister said it took the UPA government over 6 years to cancel the satellite deal even after reports on manipulation were doing the rounds.
She said, “In 2011, when the whole thing was cancelled, Devas went to international arbitration, the government of India never appointed an arbitrator. It was reminded to appoint one within 21 days, but the government no such appointments were made.”
Sitharaman said the SC order shows how “the then UPA government indulged in wrong practices as the deal was against national security. It should be Congress party’s turn to tell how this kind of fraud was perpetrated on the people of India”.
Further, Sitharaman pointed out that the manner in which the agreement was entered into with Devas was not known to the then Union Cabinet. The way in which a misleading note was put to the Cabinet shows the affairs of the company were conducted in a fraudulent manner, she added.
The finance minister also noted that as per a CAG report, the deal was not even as per the SATCOM policy, adding that the “Modi government has been fighting to save taxpayers’ money which otherwise would have gone to pay for the scandalous deal.”
Reading out the SC judgment, Sitharaman said “Devas brought in a total of Rs 579 crore, but almost 85% was siphoned out of India, partly towards establishment of a subsidiary in the US, partly towards business support services and litigation expenses, and now tens of thousands of rupees are being sought as compensation.”
Devas initiated arbitration against the annulment of the deal at the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC).
Two separate arbitrations were also initiated under the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) by Mauritius investors in Devas 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 $1.29 billion in damages.
The damages being claimed by Devas is $562.5 million plus interest from 2015.
Telcom Devas Mauritius and Devas Employees Mauritius have claimed $93.3 million and $112 million.
Foreign investors, mostly from Mauritius, in Devas are now pursuing cases in a Canada court, French court and US courts to claim compensation for deal cancellation by seizure of Air India’s assets and other properties of the government of India.
According to the January 2005 agreement, Isro’s commercial arm Antrix had agreed to build, launch and operate two satellites — Gsat-6 and Gsat-6A — and lease out 90% of the satellite transponder capacity to Devas, which had planned to use it to offer hybrid satellite and terrestrial communication services throughout India.
Bundled into the deal was 70 MHz of S-Band spectrum which was priced at Rs 1,000 crore. A media expose had then claimed that the deal could have caused loss of over Rs 2 lakh crore to the national exchequer. Soon after the expose, the erstwhile UPA government cancelled the deal in 2011.