JET AIRWAYS BID: IS JALAN A FRONT FOR THE TAINTED GUPTAS? - The Daily Guardian
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JET AIRWAYS BID: IS JALAN A FRONT FOR THE TAINTED GUPTAS?

After being accused of state capture and massive corruption, Gupta family had fled South Africa in 2018.

Tarun Nangia

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The entry of Murari Lal Jalan, who had no connection with the aviation business until his audacious bid for Jet Airways, has raised eyebrows in business circles. An oft-repeated question in circles in the national capital is whether Jalan is merely a front behind which Ajay Gupta of the Sahara Group and his family, who fled to Dubai from South Africa, are calling the shots. Since the Jet Airways bid concerns a sector like aviation, which has national security implications, the deal merits a thorough investigation to find out the source of the money which will be used to fund the deal. 

The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned Ajay Gupta, Atul Gupta, Rajesh Gupta and Salim Essa for their involvement in corruption in South Africa, pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 13818, which builds upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. It is now known that the Gupta and Jalan families registered three companies before Murari Lal Jalans’s brother Vishal’s daughter, Shivangi Jalan, was married to Atul Gupta’s son Shashank. Allegedly, the Jalan and Gupta families also part own a healthcare venture and are jointly developing real estate in Uzbekistan. Jalan has also allegedly transferred funds to Agev Investments, which is owned by the Gupta family’s in-law, Ajay Garg. 

OFAC sanctioned members of a significant corruption network in South Africa that leveraged overpayments on government contracts, bribery, and other acts of corruption to fund political contributions and influence government actions. OFAC specifically designated Ajay Gupta, Atul Gupta, Rajesh Gupta and Salim Essa for their involvement in corruption in South Africa. “The Gupta family leveraged its political connections to engage in widespread corruption and bribery, capture government contracts, and misappropriate state assets. The treasury’s designation targets the Guptas’ pay-to-play political patronage, which was orchestrated at the expense of the South African people,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in October 2019.  “The Guptas and Essa have used their influence with prominent politicians and parties to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains.  We will continue to exclude from the U.S. financial system those who profit from corruption,” he had added.

The Gupta brothers have been accused of using their friendship with Jacob Zuma, the then President of South Africa, to profit financially and influence ministerial appointments. Zuma was forced to resign as president in February 2018 amidst massive allegations of corruption. 

Today’s sanctions announcement demonstrates the U.S. government’s unwavering commitment to support the rule of law and accountability in South Africa.  “We support the anti-corruption efforts of South Africa’s independent judiciary, law enforcement agencies, and the ongoing judicial commissions of inquiry.  Moreover, we commend the extraordinary work by South Africa’s civil society activists, investigative journalists, and whistleblowers” who have exposed the breadth and depth of the Gupta family’s corruption, the US Treasury Department stated in a press release. 

ZONDO COMMISSION 

In January 2018, the formation of a commission of enquiry to probe allegations of state capture was announced by constituting the Zondo Commission by South Africa. This body, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the public sector, including organs of state and headed by Deputy Chief Justice Ray Zondo, began its work in August 2018. The Commission is also investigating how state assets like the Waterkloof Air Force base were used by a private family, the Guptas, to land their private aircraft. Justice Zondo has also said that he doesn’t think the Gupta family would return to South Africa to testify before the state capture commission of enquiry. He also said that the Guptas have been identified as key players in the state capture project and have fled the country. 

THE GUPTA FAMILY

Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta immigrated to South Africa in the 1990s. Due in large part to their generous donations to a political party and their reportedly close relationship with former South African President Jacob Zuma, their business interests expanded.  The family has been implicated in several corrupt schemes in South Africa, allegedly stealing hundreds of millions of dollars through illegal deals with the South African government, obfuscated by a shadowy network of shell companies and associates linked to the family.  

Credible reports of these corruption schemes include the Gupta family offering members of the South African government money or elevated positions within the government, in return for their cooperation with Gupta family business efforts. Public reporting has revealed the Gupta family’s efforts to garner the cooperation of a potential Minister of Finance by promising millions of dollars in return for the individual’s assistance in removing key members of the South African government who were considered to be stumbling blocks for the Gupta family’s enterprises. 

In another instance of an attempt to obtain the assistance of a member of government through illicit means, Rajesh reportedly promised a cut of a large-scale development project to a provincial minister in return for the minister’s assistance. While making this offer, Rajesh reportedly referred to two other politically powerful individuals present at the meeting as receiving large monthly payments, similar to the one being offered to the provincial minister, directly from Rajesh in return for their assistance with a mining project.

In addition, the Gupta family was overpaid for government contracts. They then used a portion of the proceeds of those overpayments to donate money to a South African political party. Further, the family paid money to a South African government official in exchange for the appointment of other government officials friendly to the Gupta family’s business interests. As a part of their corrupt business enterprise, South African government officials and business executives discussed ways to capture government contracts and then move the proceeds of those contracts, through Gupta-owned businesses, a press release issued by the U.S Department of the Treasury said in October 2019. 

AJAY GUPTA

Ajay Gupta is being designated for being the leader of an entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Ajay is the family patriarch who formulated the family’s corrupt business strategies and controlled its finances, the US Department of the Treasury’s release stated. 

ATUL GUPTA

Atul Gupta has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, an entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Atul is widely known to have overseen the Gupta family’s outreach to corrupt government officials, said the US Department of the Treasury in its release. 

RAJESH GUPTA

Rajesh Gupta (Rajesh) has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, an entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Rajesh cultivated important relationships with the sons of powerful South African politicians and led efforts to pursue business and relationships in a South African province where corruption was rampant.  Rajesh attempted to use at least one of those relationships to seek undue influence with additional members of a South African political party, the US Department of the Treasury’s press release stated. 

SALIM ESSA

Salim Essa, a business associate of the Gupta family, has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, an entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery. 

The US Department of the Treasury’s release said: As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the individuals named above, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by them, individually, or with other designated persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.  Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.  In addition, any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a U.S. person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited by E.O. 13818 if performed by a U.S. person or within the United States would be prohibited.

GLOBAL MAGNITSKY

Building upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, on December 20, 2017, the President signed E.O. 13818, in which the President found that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, had reached such scope and gravity that it threatens the stability of international political and economic systems. 

Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets.  The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons. 

To date, the Department of the Treasury has designated 118 individuals and entities under E.O. 13818.  This figure is in addition to the numerous human rights- or corruption-related designations the Treasury has issued under other various authorities.  In total, since January of 2017, the Treasury has taken action against more than 680 individuals and entities engaged in activities related to, or directly involving, human rights abuse or corruption, said the US Department of the Treasury.  

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Sensex nosedives 1,939 points, worst in 11 month

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NEW DELHI: A broad-based sell-off in equities and weak global cues amid rising bond yields played a Black Friday for Indian stock markets as the Sensex posted its worst single-day performance since 30 March 2020.

The BSE S&P Sensex closed 1,939 points or 3.8 per cent lower at 49,100 while the Nifty 50 tumbled by 568 points or 3.76 per cent to 14,529. The global selloff was triggered by an overnight sharp rise in US 10-year treasury yields. When bond yields rise, equity markets generally underperform.

Rising oil prices and the US airstrikes on Syria led to the negative sentiments of investors who feared foreign outflows and reversal of interest rate cycle.

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Give me 5 years to forget the last 25: Kejriwal in Surat

Abhijit Bhatt

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Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

A grand road-show was organised by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after an impressive victory in 27 seats in the Surat Municipal Corporation. Following that, he addressed a public meeting at the Takshashila complex where 22 students had lost their lives due to a fire in 2019.

At the public meeting, Kejriwal thanked the people of Surat and paid tribute to the children who died in the Takshashila fire. He spoke about bringing clean politics in Surat and Gujarat in the coming days, and providing all facilities to the people of Surat just like he has in Delhi. “Give me five years and forget the last 25 years of the BJP,” Kejriwal appealed.

“Today, the boys of Gujarat are struggling for college admission after passing 10th and 12th standard. They are struggling for jobs if they get admission in college. Why has the BJP not given jobs to youth in 25 years? What these people couldn›t do in 25 years, we did in five years,” he added.

The Delhi CM also declared that his party, the Aam Aadmi Party, would be surprisingly successful in the next Assembly election. The youth leadership will get a place in the Assembly and the government will not ask the youth for employment, they will fight for their rights by creating employment themselves, he said.

He also appealed that people vote in the upcoming elections for District Panchayat and Taluka Panchayat as well as the Nagarpalika elections.

He further assured that AAP would solve the problems of not receiving proper electricity and prices for produce that farmers in Gujarat are facing, if it is voted to power.

Kejriwal also used the platform to publicly call on some good Congress leaders to join the Aam Aadmi Party along with those within the BJP who are true patriots and want to contribute honestly to the development of the country. 

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Ambani bomb scare: Threat letter calls it ‘a trailer’; NIA reaches Mumbai

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A suspicious vehicle was found parked near businessman and billionaire Mukesh Ambani›s residence, Antilia, in Mumbai on Thursday. The car was laden with 21 gelatin sticks which is an explosive material.

In an exclusive conversation with The Sunday Guardian, Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Chaitanya S. said that an FIR has been registered at the Gamdevi Police Station against unidentified persons in connection with the seizure of a vehicle. An FIR has been registered for the case under Indian Penal Code Sections 286 (negligent conduct with respect to explosive substance), 465 (punishment for forgery), 473 (making or possessing counterfeit seal), 506(2) (criminal intimidation, if threat be to cause death or grievous hurt), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy). Section 4 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 (punishment for attempt to cause explosion, or for making or keeping explosive with intent to endanger life or property) has also been included in the FIR.

A threat letter was also recovered from the car which mentioned the names of industrialist Mukesh Ambani and his wife, Nita Ambani. The handwritten letter was reportedly written in Hinglish with grammatical mistakes, calling the planted explosives a ‹trailer› and warning that there will be a return after more preparation to assassinate the whole family later. The contents of the letter read: “Nita bhabhi aur Mukesh bhaiya aur family, ek jhalak hai ye. Agli baar ye saaman pora connect ho ke aayega. Original gaadi mein aayega. Tum pura family ko udaane ke liye intajaam ho gaya hai. Sambal jaana. Gud nit”.

The olive-coloured Scorpio with gelatin sticks was found abandoned on Carmichael Road in Mumbai’s posh Pedder Road area. The SUV had a wrong number plate and was found about 500 metres away from the Ambanis’ house on Altamount Road. The SUV had been apparently stolen from Mumbai›s Vikhroli area and the police have identified its real owner, but the suspect has not been traced so far. Hiren Mansook, the car owner, said his car had crashed in Thane and stopped moving, which is why he had he left his car there, only to come back the next day and realise that it had been stolen. The car owner reached the Commissioner of Police office for further investigation on the case.

Mumbai Police has deployed its personnel outside the Ambanis’ house after the explosives were found in the area, tightening security at Antilia. The police also called in the bomb squad after the police control room was informed about the vehicle. On Friday evening, the National Investigation Agency team also reached the Mumbai Commissioner of Police office to investigate the case further.

Reliance Industries released an official statement which said, “We are thankful to Mumbai Police for their quick and immediate action. We are confident that Mumbai Police will complete their thorough investigation quickly.”

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Upset G-23 leaders may give strong message to Gandhis from Jammu today

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The rebellion within the Congress—brewing within the party for months between senior party members and Team Rahul Gandhi comprising young leaders—is all set to come out in the open. Days after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “North-South” remark, senior leaders from north India are expected to make a strong statement against the top party leadership in Jammu on Saturday.

While Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to head towards the poll-bound Tamil Nadu on Saturday, the party’s dissenters, also known as G-23 leaders who had questioned the party’s functioning in a letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi, will hold a show of strength in Jammu.

Senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Kapil Sibbal, Raj Babbar, Vivek Tankha, Ghulam Nabi Azad will address an event in Jammu on Saturday which Manish Tiwari is also expected to join. They all belong to north India.

On the condition of anonymity, a senior leader of the Congress G-23 told ANI on Friday that it is a message to Rahul Gandhi: “We will tell the country that from north to south India is one.”

Last year in August, G-23 leaders through a letter to interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed their discontent and urged the top leadership of Congress to bring immediate reforms, including organisational elections from the grass-roots to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) level.

Today, they are once again up in arms against the Gandhi family and their loyal close circle who are holding key positions in the party and the parliament.

A senior leader from G-23 said, “What’s happening in Congress today is a clear violation of the agreement reached in Congress Working Committee in December last year, but there are no signs of any reforms or election.”

According to G-23 sources, the leaders are also furious over the treatment meted out to Ghulam Nabi Azad, who recently retired from Rajya Sabha and was not accommodated by the Congress high command.

A leader from the G-23 group said, “When other parties were offering seat to Azad, PM spoke so well about him. Our congress party leadership showed no respect to him. In fact, a lawyer who is fighting cases of Robert Vadra has been brought to Rajya Sabha.”

Mallikarjun Kharge’s appointment as leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha by Congress, while ignoring other senior leaders also enraged members of G23.

A senior leader from the G-23 grouping told ANI that the flashpoint or the tipping point is the north-south statement made by Rahul Gandhi in Kerala recently.G-23 sources said that leaders will speak their minds, show solidarity, and give a message to the party leadership.

According to sources, Congress’ top leadership is aware about the moves of G-23 leaders. A top source in the party said leadership is keeping an eye on the whole episode and “not in a hurry to come to any conclusion”.

It is also important to note down that Gandhis have not reacted in the episodes yet, although the last attempt was made to cool down the situation was done in December last year, when G-23 leaders were invited by Sonia Gandhi at her residence for meeting.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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INDIA FINDS 81 ROHINGYAS ADRIFT AT SEA, ASKS BANGLADESH TO TAKE THEM

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India is negotiating with Bangladesh to take back 81 Rohingyas whose boat drifted into its territorial waters in mid-February. Eight Rohingyas on that boat have already died and one has gone missing, possibly drowned in the Andaman Sea.

“We are in discussions with the Government of Bangladesh to ensure their safe and secure repatriation,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava has said.

However, a Bangladesh foreign ministry press release has made clear the country’s unwillingness to take back the sea-stranded Rohingyas on the ground that their boat is far away from the country’s territorial waters.

But Srivastava insisted that 47 of the boat’s 90 occupants possessed identity cards issued to them by the UNHCR office in Bangladesh, which indicated clearly they were displaced Myanmar nationals and persons of concern to UNHCR registered by the Bangladesh government.

Speaking at a video briefing, Srivastava had said that, on 11 February, the boat sailed from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh carrying 64 women including 8 girls and 26 men including 5 boys.

“The engine of the boat failed on February 15 and since then it has been drifting. Due to the severe conditions, we understand that eight occupants have died and one of the occupants had been missing since February 15,” Srivastava said.

“When we learnt of the boat in distress, we immediately dispatched two Coast Guard ships to provide food, water and medical assistance to the occupants. Seven of them were administered IV fluids,” he added. But Bangladesh does not seem inclined to take back these Rohingyas. A press statement by Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Saturday said that the UN news release “clearly specified the location of boat at Andaman Sea which lies to the southeast of Bay of Bengal, south of Myanmar, west of Thailand and east of India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands”.

The MOFA statement said: “The boat has been traced approx. 1700 km away from Bangladesh at a location which is approx 492 km from Myanmar, 363 km from Thailand, 281 km from Indonesia and 147 km from India. The location is far off the territorial water of Bangladesh and proximate to other littoral states.”

“Other states, particularly those, on whose territorial water the vessel has been found, bear the primary responsibility and they should fulfill their obligation under international law and burden-sharing principle,” it added.

So by implication, the Bangladesh foreign ministry seems to be putting the onus of rescue and relief for the Rohingyas on India. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had raised the alarm earlier this week over the missing boat.

More than 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are living in teeming camps in Bangladesh, including tens of thousands who fled after Myanmar’s military conducted a deadly crackdown in 2017.

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Post Pangong success, India asks China to resolve remaining boundary issues

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The government said on Friday that following the disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, it is not in the interest of either side to prolong the remaining boundary issues between the two countries.

The statement came a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a conversation over phone that lasted for 75 minutes. The two Foreign Ministers discussed the situation along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh and also issues related to overall India-China relations.

Noting the completion of disengagement in the Pangong Lake area, Jaishankar emphasised that both sides should now quickly resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. He said that once disengagement is completed at all friction points, then the two sides could also look at broader de-escalation of troops in the area and work towards the restoration of peace and tranquillity.

According to the MEA release, “The EAM referred to the meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister in September 2020 in Moscow where Indian side had expressed its concern on provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter status quo. He noted that the bilateral relations have been impacted severely over the last year.”

Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart that “a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side. It was, therefore, necessary that the two sides should work towards early resolution of remaining issues”, the MEA said on Friday.

It is necessary to disengage at all friction points in order to contemplate de-escalation of forces in this sector. That alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquility and provide conditions for the progress of bilateral relationship, Jaishankar told Wang Yi.

The ‘Boundary Question’, he said, may take time to resolve, but disturbance of peace and tranquility, including by violence, will inevitably have a damaging impact on the relationship.

The minister said that during their meeting in Moscow last year, both ministers had agreed that the situation in the border areas was not in the interest of either side and decided that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage and ease tensions.

He noted that the two sides had maintained continuous communication since then through both diplomatic and military channels. This had led to progress as both sides had successfully disengaged in the Pangong Tso Lake area earlier this month.

Noting the completion of disengagement in the Pangong Lake area, Jaishankar emphasised that both sides should now quickly resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

He said that once disengagement is completed at all friction points, the two sides could also look at broader deescalation of troops in the area and work towards restoration of peace and tranquility.

The MEA statement said that Wang Yi, on his part, expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far. He felt that it was an important step forward for restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas. He also conveyed that it was is necessary to sincerely implement the common understanding reached at various levels.

The Chinese Foreign Minister said that both sides should make efforts to consolidate the outcomes. He also spoke about the need to improve management and control in the border areas.

WITH AGENCY INPUTS

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