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Govt set to contest Opposition on Volcker

Our Political Bureau  |  New Delhi 

Treasury benches are preparing themselves for a frontal assault on the Opposition on the Volcker Committee report, which revealed that former foreign minister and the were "non-contractual beneficiaries"
Top government officials said about 1,200 pages of document's had been received from New York, brought by special envoy
This information is being processed in the finance ministry. Added to this information is the intelligence gleaned from the interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate of Andaleeb Sahgal of Hamdan Exports, the company which is said to have traded under the oil-for-food programme, allegedly bribing the Iraqi regime to secure business.
Based on this information, the government has, till now, reached the conclusion that Volcker's conclusions are specious and unsubstantiated.
According to sources, in his interrogation Sehgal said that he did not trade with Iraq and did not "know what a barrel of oil looks like," and that he had no connection with Masefield AG, the company that paid for the oil secured by Hamdan Exports.
The paper trail from the bank in Jordan, where the money was paid, cannot be established without Masefield's co-operation. Officials conceded that by law, Masefield was not obliged to cooperate with the government. But if they did, the government would get the name of the individual who got the contract, they added. So the first step is to establish whether Masefield AG had an Indian connection.
If an Indian connection is established both in respect of the and Natwar Singh, the chances are that the person who misused the names will be charged with "misrepresentation" under the Indian Penal Code. The story is unlikely to go beyond Sahgal.
As a result, tomorrow's debate is expected to yield much sound and fury, but little in terms of actual evidence linking Natwar Singh or his son, Jagat Singh, with the Iraq deal.
The government concedes that how the Congress' name came to figure in the Volcker report is a mystery.
But when Finance Minister P Chidambaram gets up to defend the government on this issue in the House, he is likely to ask the Opposition to produce its own evidence to back up its charges.
The debate in the House is likely to be noisy because the Opposition will ask the government why the probe was not set up under the Commissions of Enquiry Act.
To this the government is likely to reply that the speed with which it has acted""getting documents within a week and preliminary examination within 10 days ""could not have been achieved under the Act.
The week will have a stormy start in Parliament and disruptions are likely to continue for the rest of the week.

First Published: Mon, November 28 2005. 00:00 IST