A senior advisor questions the advertisement that demanded that the Finance Minister, the head of the Enforcement Directorate, and the Supreme Court judges be sanctioned in the Devas case
The government strongly reacted on Saturday to a Wall Street Journal ad published by a U.S. organization calling for sanctions against Nirmala Sitharaman, the finance minister, Supreme Court judges, Enforcement Directorate, and other defendants in the Devas-Antrix case. The government described the ad as an “attack on Indian sovereignty.”
The newspaper ad that first appeared on October 13 seems to have been timed to coincide with Ms. Sitharaman’s trip to Washington to raise awareness of the case on behalf of Ramachandra Vishwanathan, a U.S. citizen and co-founder of Devas. Mr. Vishwanathan has petitioned the U.S. State Department to impose “Magnitsky Act” sanctions on the named eleven Indian government officials for what he called a flawed investigation, an “unfair” trial, and government actions to label him a criminal and seize his property, which he claimed amounted to “depriving” him of his “liberty and security,” along with a Washington, D.C.-based NGO called “Frontiers of Freedom.” A senior government official in Delhi referred to the commercial as “shockingly filthy” and said it attacked India and its administration.
“This is not only an anti-Modi Government movement. It’s an effort to undermine the judiciary. In a series of tweets, Kanchan Gupta, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, criticized the Wall Street Journal for permitting the “shameful weaponization of American media by fraudsters” and referred to the campaign as one “against India’s sovereignty.” According to Mr. Gupta, Mr. Vishwanathan, a “designated fugitive economic criminal” accused of corruption, had the advertising on his behalf.
The latest controversy relates to Deva’s co-founder Vishwanathan’s actions and the government’s recent counteractions against Devas. The original case involved a dispute between Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia and Antrix Corp, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation, over a 2005 deal to operate satellites that were canceled. The Delhi High Court overturned a $1.3 billion (including interest) arbitration ruling in Devas Multimedia’s favor that the International Chamber of Commerce had rendered in 2015. Using the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to freeze Deva’s accounts in Mauritius and request an Interpol red flag alert to extradite Mr. Vishwanathan from the United States, the government pursued his arrest on corruption-related accusations.
However, Devas Multimedia s also seized property in Paris in August and $87,457.47 in cash from Antrix Corporation’s account in the U.S. after receiving favorable decisions in U.S., French, and Canadian courts based on the ICC judgment.
The advertisement, which was published by a right-wing American NGO founded by a senator from the Republican party, accused Ms. Sitharaman, Judges V. Ramasubramanian and Hemant Gupta, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra, Assistant Director R. Rajesh, and other government officials of abusing their positions to “settle personal and professional scores with rivals in politics and business.” George Landrith, the president of Frontiers of Freedom and a Republican, referred to the named officials as “Modi’s Magnitsky 11”.
Mr. Landrith tweeted on Thursday that “the acts of [officials listed and the Modi government] send a clear message to potential investors in India: India is a risky place to invest.”
The Global Magnitsky Act of 2016 gives the U.S. government the power to sanction foreign officials who violate “human rights” anywhere in the globe, freeze their assets, revoke their visas, and prevent them from entering the country.
Mr. Gupta urged the U.S. government to investigate the advertisement while speaking to media networks and at a public event in Delhi. He also questioned why the IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, who met Ms. Sitharaman, referred to India as a “bright star” on the global horizon. At the same time, the financial paper carried the advertisement casting doubt on India’s investment climate. Mr. Gupta urged the U.S. government to investigate the ad while speaking to media networks and at a public event in Delhi. He also questioned why the IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, who met Ms. Sitharaman, referred to India as a “bright star” on the global horizon. At the same time, the financial paper carried the advertisement casting doubt on India’s investment climate.