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.
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 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 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) 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, 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.
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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PRESIDENT ADDRESSES SPECIAL SESSION OF HIMACHAL ASSEMBLY ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF ITS STATEHOOD
All Indians are proud of the development story written by the people of Himachal Pradesh in the past 50 years, said the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, while addressing the special session of Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly in Shimla on Friday. This special session was being organised on the occasion of golden jubilee of statehood of Himachal Pradesh.
The President said that all the previous governments of Himachal Pradesh have played an important role throughout the journey of its development. He appreciated contributions made by former Chief Ministers— Late Dr. Y.S. Parmar, Late Shri Thakur Ram Lal, Shri Shanta Kumar, Shri Prem Kumar Dhumal and Late Shri Virbhadra Singh. He said that the initiative taken by the Himachal Pradesh government to take the development journey of the state to the people is highly commendable.
Himachal Pradesh has set new dimensions of development in various fields. He noted according to a report by NITI Aayog, that Himachal Pradesh ranks second in the country in the “Sustainable Development Goals – India Index 2020-21”. He said that Himachal Pradesh is the leading state in the country on many parameters. He appreciated the government of Himachal Pradesh for these achievements.
Pointing to the fact that water of rivers of Himachal Pradesh is clean and soil is full of nutrients, the President urged the farmers of the state to adopt natural farming more and more and keep their land free from chemical fertilizers.
The President said that eco-friendly agriculture, horticulture, tourism, education, employment, etc., have immense potential for sustainable development in Himachal Pradesh. Therefore, we should make continuous efforts for development while preserving its natural beauty and heritages, he added.
PUNJAB YET TO PROPOSE PENSION FOR HIV AIDS PATIENTS
HIV AIDS patients of Punjab have been suffering not only the disease but also bearing the sting of financial deprivation for the last many years. All neighboring states of Punjab have a pension plan for these patients, even the Capital of Punjab Chandigarh also has a pension plan. Nevertheless, Punjab State AIDS Control Society is yet in the process of thinking to create a proposal for a pension scheme and send that to State Government. Punjab has a maximum patient load of HIV-AIDS patients when compared to the neighboring states. These patients require treatment, nutrition, travel expenses, Medicine expenses but whom shall they look upto. As the government despite knowing all the ground reality sitting silent and yet thinking to propose a plan for such patients.
For an HIV patient, it takes time for him/her to reach the stage of AIDS. There are more than 40000 patients in state who are suffering from HIV, some of them had already reached the stage of AIDS. Some are residing in the border area of Punjab and a maximum of them are getting treatment from PGIMER. It’s a tedious task for an HIV Patient to travel first to the PGIMER, then seek medicine every month.
Pragya Thakur (Name Changed) of Amritsar told The Daily Guardian, “It’s like adding insult to injury for me, I hardly could manage nutritious food for myself as after popping these medicines one need nutritious food to survive and then traveling this long for medicine and treatment, I have no option but to strive hard for myself and my kids who also turned out to be HIV positive”.
“Maybe it is not my mistake but once someone turns HIV Positive, people in society would not let him or her life with dignity. I was thrown out of my job after my boss get to know that I am HIV positive. Even my family too had cornered me. I became HIV positive in 2020 after infected blood was infused in me by a govt hospital in Bathinda. Government is other states provides pension to HIV patients but here in Punjab no one cares,” says Sudhanshu Mishra from Bathinda
Talking about this grim situation, Project Director of Punjab State AIDS Control Society IAS Amit Kumar exhorted, “ We know life is not easy for them. We are going to propose a Pension scheme to the Government comprising many other benefits that we could provide to these patients. Also, we are trying to collaborate with the POSHAN scheme so that we may contribute nutritious food to them. Moreover, We are also in process of providing free travel to these patients. We are hopeful that state government shall soon pass this proposal.”
BJP CHANGES ITS STRATEGY AGAINST MAMATA IN BHABANIPUR, TO RUN CAMPAIGN ‘SECRETLY’
There are only a few days left for the Bhabanipur by-election in the state of West Bengal. The propaganda storm of all the camps is at its peak. Complaints and counter-allegations are also coming to the fore in the atmosphere of propaganda. This time the BJP changed its campaign strategy. Their new strategy with Bhabanipur is that the campaign will be run secretly. The BJP leadership will reach different parts of Bhabanipur without informing anyone. Recently, Priyanka Tibrewal, the BJP candidate in the Bhabanipur by-election, has been accused of violating the Covid-19 rules. But her counter-claim is that some unknown people are reaching out during her campaign, and that’s why the crowds are getting bigger. So, this time the state BJP decided to change the campaign strategy for Bhabanipur.
BJP candidate Priyanka Tibrewal alleged that a group of 15 to 20 people were behind her campaign team wherever she went. Priyanka claims that although these unidentified persons are claimed to be police, there are doubts as to whether they are police at all. The BJP leader estimates that they are not police at all. They are the ones who are motivating the crowd in campaign, she said. And seeing the crowd, there admin puts the allegations of breaking the Covid-19 rules. The BJP demanded that if those people were policemen, they should come in police uniforms.
SCRAP FARM LAWS, TALK TO FARMERS TO FIND WAY FORWARD, PUNJAB CM AMARINDER SINGH TELLS CENTRE
As the nation marked one year of the Farm Laws, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday demanded immediate scrapping of the legislations by the Centre, calling for detailed discussions with the farmers to find a way forward.
Pointing out that many farmers had died in these protests, the Chief Minister said it was high time the Central Government realised its blunder and withdrew the legislations in the interest of the farmers and the nation.
The Chief Minister, wearing a #nofarmers_nofood bade, was inaugurating the 3rd state level virtual Kisan Mela organised by Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The 2-day mela is centered on the theme : ‘KARIE PARALI DI SAMBHAL, DHARTI MAA HOVE KHUSHHAL’, in line with the state government’s focus on eliminating stubble burning.
“Till date, the Indian Constitution has been amended as many as 127 times, so why can it not be amended once again to scrap the Farm Laws and resolve the imbroglio resulting from them,” asked the Chief Minister. “What is the problem in doing it a 128th time,” he demanded to know from the BJP-led government at the Centre.
What was happening with the farmers today was extremely sad, given the immense contribution made by them to India’s development and progress, said Captain Amarinder, calling for immediate revocation of the laws, which he said were detrimental to the interest not just of the agricultural community but the entire country.
Recalling that he had been asked by the Centre to stop Punjab’s farmers from going to Delhi last November, the Chief Minister said he had refused point blank to do so, as protest is the democratic right of farmers. “Why should they not protest? How can I stop them,” he asked, making it clear that he continues to stand with the farmers in their fight against these legislations, with his government continuing to give compensation and jobs to the families of the deceased farmers.
Noting the contribution of Punjab and its farmers to the country’s growth, the Chief Minister said the state, with only 1.53 % of total geographical area of India, produces about 18% of the country’s wheat, 11% paddy, 4.4% cotton and 10% milk. For the past many decades, Punjab has been contributing about 35-40% of wheat and 25-30% of rice to the central pool, he said, expressing pride in the achievements of the state’s farmers.
No passport to government employees in J&K till they get vigilance clearance
The administration in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory on Thursday made the latest vigilance clearance mandatory for obtaining a passport by a government employee.
“The passport to the citizens including Government employees is issued on the basis of verification carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The current system does not contain any mechanism that would help deny the passport to such employees who are either under suspension or facing departmental inquiry or prosecution on account of serious charges,” reads a government circular, a copy of which lies with the ITV Network.
Hitherto, a Government employee was only required to inform his employer for applying for a passport. “Also, the guidelines for obtaining passport have been reviewed by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personnel & Training, GoI in consultation with the Central Vigilance Commission and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and vide Office Memorandum No. F. No. 11012/7/2017- Estt.A-111 dated February, 2020, elaborate instructions have been issued for obtaining fresh vigilance clearance while considering grant of passport to Government employees,” it reads.
The government said Anti Corruption Bureau, J&K has also brought into its notice that the present mechanism for issuance of passport to Government employees without obtaining requisite vigilance clearance results in the issuance of passport to those employees against whom vigilance cases are pending. “Thus, there is an urgent necessity to instruct all the departments to issue the NOC for issuance of passport on the basis of vigilance clearance only.”
Accordingly, the government has impressed upon all the Administrative Departments/Heads of Departments to mandatorily obtain the latest vigilance clearance in respect of an employee applying for obtaining passport in terms of Office Memorandum dated February, 2020 issued by DoPT, GOI, strictly.
MAMATA WILL BE THE FACE IN 2024, NOT RAHUL: TMC
In Trinamool’s internal meeting in Kolkata on Thursday, MP Bandyopadhyay said that it is West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, and not Rahul Gandhi, who is the face of the Opposition against PM Modi.
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah had long dreamt of clinching the seat of power in West Bengal. However, the people of the state relied on the ‘daughter of Bengal’ again. As Mamata Banerjee assumed power for the third consecutive time in a row, her eyes are settled on the main epicenter of power in New Delhi. Meanwhile, Mamata is moving from pillar to post in order to look for like-minded people who could join hands with her ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha Elections. As TMC is looking to form a grand alliance, to tackle the BJP juggernaut, the party wants to portray Mamata Banerjee as the main face against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 elections.
The Trinamool has already started bringing the like-minded opposition parties under one umbrella to win the capital. That list includes parties like Congress, NCP, SP, Shiv Sena, UP, DMK. However, the Trinamool wants to establish itself as the main face of the BJP opposition. This is clear from a report published in the Trinamool mouthpiece ‘Jago Bangla’ on Friday.
The title of the report suggested: “Rahul Gandhi could not defeat Modi, Mamata is an alternative face.” According to political analysts, the Trinamool wants to portray Mamata as the main face against Modi, even if there is an alliance with the Congress.
In the TMC’s internal meeting in North Kolkata on Thursday, senior MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay said that it is West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and not Rahul Gandhi, who is the face of opposition against Narendra Modi.
“We are not talking about an alliance without the Congress. I have observed Rahul Gandhi for a long time and he has not developed himself as an alternative to Modi. The entire country wants Mamata so we will keep Mamata’s face and will campaign,” Bandyopadhyay was quoted saying by News 18.
Meanwhile, Adhir Chowdhury, the president of the West Bengal Congress, has strongly opposed this message. In this way, Mamata Banerjee is indirectly strengthening the hand of BJP.
Adhir Chowdhury’s response to the report was: “On the one hand, they are saying that all the opposition parties should be one. Again, without taking the views of the opposition parties, insulting them, without discussing with them, Mamata is writing in her party’s mouthpiece that she wants to be the Prime Minister of India. It is extremely unfortunate. I think the BJP’s hand is indirectly getting stronger by making these things happen. Because, BJP wants to see discord brewing within the opposition. The Chief Minister of Bengal herself is facilitating this. The BJP will benefit in the end. ”
However, in a bid to clear the air, Kunal Ghosh said, “There is no question of disrespecting the Congress or disrespecting Rahul Gandhi, nor is there any alternative to excluding the Congress. That being said, people are not accepting Rahul Gandhi as an alternative face to Narendra Modi. He is not ready yet.”
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