Archive for December, 2018

14/12/2018

A billionaire vanished for 400 days and his empire boomed

Billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi, is ‘still alive’ and will stand trial at some point for corruption and bribery, according to a Saudi official, who asked not to be identified.

Mohammed Al Amoudi,Saudi princes,Al Amoudi
Billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi has been in touch with relatives and is reported to be in good health(Official Website)

More than a year ago, he vanished into the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, along with dozens of Saudi princes and businessmen.

Before long, rumors swirled: Was the billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi even alive?

Now, at last, comes the answer. Al Amoudi, is ‘still alive’ and will stand trial at some point for corruption and bribery, according to a Saudi official, who asked not to be identified.

What’s remarkable about his situation is that despite his prolonged detainment, a result of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on graft in the Kingdom, the bulk of Al Amoudi’s global business empire has boomed.

 

The situation highlights the contradictions and absurdities of being a wealthy Saudi under the de facto reign of the crown prince, whose embargo of Qatar, war in Yemen and alleged role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi have shocked the world but prompted little apparent change in his agenda.

A Saudi official who asked not to be identified confirmed Thursday that the billionaire is in custody, though no trial date has been set. Al Amoudi has been in touch with relatives and is reported to be in good health, according to his spokesman, Tim Pendry. He disputed that Al Amoudi has been officially charged with any wrongdoing and declined further comment.

 

Saudi Crackdown

The Ethiopian-born businessman is one of several high-profile individuals still detained in the corruption crackdown. Among those believed to still be held include Prince Turki bin Abdullah, son of the late King Abdullah.

Most of the other businessmen and princes have been released after agreeing to hand over more than $100 billion in cash and assets. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who chalked up his detention to “a misunderstanding,” is once again making deals and borrowing huge sums. Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the former head of the National Guard who forked over $1 billion in bail, was seen meeting with King Salman.

“Liquid assets were shifted out quite quickly after the purge,” said Marcus Chenevix, an analyst at investment research firm TS Lombard in London. The crackdown targeted wealthy members of the business elite from Jeddah in particular, a group — Al Amoudi included — who prospered in part through ties to King Abdullah and King Fahd. King Salman was a former governor of Riyadh and things were “tense from the moment he came in,” Chenevix said.

Rosy Assessments

Both Fitch and S&P Global, which rate Preem’s debt, have given rosy assessments of its credit health. Yes, the sole shareholder of the $5 billion company has been missing for months, but the operations haven’t been affected, the analysts wrote. Al Amoudi “was not really involved in the day-to-day management of the business,” Fitch analyst Vladislav Nikolov said.

Al Amoudi’s brother Hassan has been granted power of attorney, according to a June 30 presentation from Preem’s parent company, Corral Petroleum. The brother, who owns a furniture factory in Jeddah, isn’t otherwise involved in the business, spokesman Pendry said.

Preem Stake

While Al Amoudi delegated day-to-day management to other executives, his deep pockets were helpful in the harshly cyclical energy industry. A 2016 bond prospectus by Corral Petroleum highlighted Al Amoudi’s ranking on global wealth lists and “continued commitment” to the company in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars of shareholder loans and contributions.

‘National Issue’

None of the billionaire’s business associates has publicly sought answers from Saudi Arabia on Al Amoudi’s predicament. The only outspoken advocate for Al Amoudi’s release has come from Ethiopia, where the billionaire is the largest single private investor. His assets there, which include land holdings, gold mines, coffee plantations, a fuel company and hotels, are conservatively valued at $1.2 billion.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told state media in May he was confident Al Amoudi’s release was imminent after he made a personal appeal to the crown prince. In August, Ahmed told reporters he’d gotten word from Saudi officials that the industrialist’s release was being postponed for “some proceedings” and vowed to keep up the pressure.

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14/12/2018

LIVE: ‘Truth has only one version’, Jaitley trashes Congress demand for JPC on Rafale

JP president Amit Shah, finance minister Arun Jaitley and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday launched an attack on Congress, which has attacked the Centre for months over the Rafale fighter jet deal, and demanded an apology from the part…

BJP president Amit Shah, finance minister Arun Jaitley and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday launched an attack on Congress, which has attacked the Centre for months over the Rafale fighter jet deal, and demanded an apology from the party.

“Rahul Gandhi should apologise to the country,” Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Tomar demanded in parliament soon after the Supreme Court dismissed petitions that had sought a probe.

14/12/2018

Hillary Clinton joins Bollywood stars as super-rich Indians wed

Bride Isha Ambani, the daughter of the Chairman of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani, and her groom Anand Piramal, heir to a real-estate and pharmaceutical business, after they got married in Mumbai, India, December 12, 2018. Reliance Industries/Handout via REUTERS

 

MUMBAI (Reuters) – The daughter of India’s richest man got married on Wednesday in a traditional ceremony in Mumbai attended by Bollywood stars and former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The marriage brings together two of India’s most influential families. The bride, Isha Ambani, 27, is the daughter of Mukesh Ambani, head of the vast Reliance conglomerate whose net worth Forbes put at $43 billion.

Her groom, Anand Piramal, 33, is heir to a real-estate and pharmaceutical business.

The wedding bash took place at Ambani’s Mumbai residence, an extraordinary 27-storey structure known as one of the most expensive homes in the world. It was covered in red roses and decorated with lights and flowers for the occasion.

The groom and his family arrived in vintage cars as security guards onlookers and photographers from the narrow lane in south Mumbai that leads to the residence.

India’s Filmfare magazine said 600 guests were expected at what media have dubbed the “the big, fat Indian wedding”.

The festivities were a culmination of lavish pre-wedding celebrations in the desert city of Udaipur over the weekend which featured a private concert by American singer Beyonce.

As well as Clinton, who according to Indian media reports has an association with the Ambanis that goes back more than 18 years, attendees included newly-weds actress Priyanka Chopra and singer Nick Jonas, former Indian finance minister P. Chidambaram, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood actor Aamir Khan.

Many in India, where millions of people live in dire poverty, have closely followed the wedding preparations, including the couple’s engagement at a luxury hotel on Italy’s Lake Como.

14/12/2018

Exclusive: Iran falls to sixth biggest oil supplier to India in November, from fourth in October

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s monthly oil imports from Iran plunged to their lowest in a year in November with Tehran dropping two places to become only the sixth biggest supplier after New Delhi cut purchases due to the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to ship tracking data and industry sources.

Last month, the United States introduced tough sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s oil revenue-dependent economy. Washington did, though, give a six-month waiver from sanctions to eight nations, including India, and allowed them to import some Iranian oil.

India is restricted to buying 1.25 million tonnes per month, or about 300,000 barrels per day (bpd).

In November, India imported about 276,000 bpd of Iranian oil, a decline of about 41 percent from October and about 4 percent more than the year-ago month, ship tracking data obtained from shipping and trade sources showed.

After abandoning the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to force Tehran to quash not only its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program but its support for militant proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.

India’s imports from Iran in November, included some parcels that were loaded in October. In November, Iraq and Saudi Arabia continued to be the top two oil sellers to India.

The UAE, which was the sixth biggest oil seller to India in October, became the third top seller to India in November, knocking down Venezuela by a notch to fourth position.

Nigeria continued at No. 5 position, while Iran slipped to sixth place.

“Iran do not have vessels to export oil on time … some November loading vessels will arrive in December,” said an industry source, with knowledge of the matter.

Local and international shippers are not carrying Iranian cargoes despite India winning a waiver, this source said. The key problem is that while India can import Iranian oil without falling foul of Washington, that may not apply to a shipping company signing a new delivery contract.

Instead, India is relying on Iranian tankers for crude imports and Iran is using many of its vessels for crude storage.

The sources declined to be identified citing the confidentiality of the numbers.

Indian refiners, wary of the impact of U.S. sanctions, had boosted imports from Iran ahead of their introduction, with imports averaging about 563,000 bpd in April-November, a growth of about 32 percent from a low base in the previous fiscal year, the data showed.

(For an interactive graphic on ‘India’s Oil Imports From Iran’ click tmsnrt.rs/2SIFkfF)

In the previous financial year to March 2018 India had cut oil imports from Iran due to a dispute over development rights of a giant gas field.

Iran was hoping to sell more than 500,000 bpd of oil to India in 2018/19, its oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said in February, and had offered almost free shipping and an extended credit period to boost sales to India.

Government sources say Reuters’ calculations showing India’s oil imports from Iran in this fiscal year would be higher than the 452,000 bpd, or 22.6 million tonnes, it imported in the previous year, are correct.

During January-November this year India’s oil imports from Iran rose by an annual 18.4 percent to 552,000 bpd, the data showed. [L3N1YI38M]

14/12/2018

India’s ruling party seeks to energise workers after state losses

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP will try to canvass and galvanise its activists across India before a general election due next May, after losing power in three heartland rural states, senior leaders said after a meeting on Thursday.

Disgruntled voters blamed the slow pace of job creation and weak farm prices for the Hindu nationalist party’s defeat in the states, two of which it had ruled for three straight terms.

“We realise that rural distress and employment generation are the key issues and we are working on them,” said BJP spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal, who attended the meeting. “They’ll have to be tackled, and we will take suggestions from wherever needed.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) various wings – representing women, farmers, lower castes, Muslims and young members – will all hold deliberations after losses in the supposed stronghold states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

“These meetings are aimed at preparing for the 2019 election and spreading the party’s message in various sections of society,” Bhupender Yadav, a BJP national general secretary, said after the meeting, which he said had been scheduled before the state election results came out on Tuesday.

He also announced that a planned national convention would be held in New Delhi on Jan. 11 and 12.

Senior BJP minister Nitin Gadkari told the ET Now business channel on Thursday that the agriculture sector may have been neglected under their government.

JOBS AND FARM PRICES

Agarwal, a chartered accountant who is also a director in a state-run bank, said increasing lending for job-generating small businesses was a key focus, as was enhancing procurement of grain from farmers by government agencies at state-mandated prices so there are no distress sales.

The government announces so-called minimum support prices for most crops to set a benchmark, but state agencies mainly buy limited quantities of staples such as rice and wheat at those prices, restricting benefits of higher prices to only around 7 percent of India’s 263 million farmers, according to various studies.

Following the state election setbacks, Modi’s government is expected to announce loan waivers worth billions of dollars to woo farmers, government sources told Reuters this week.

Agarwal said the party’s loss in Madhya Pradesh, known for multiplying agriculture production under three BJP governments, has reinforced its realisation that higher output helps consumers by bringing down prices, but can badly hurt farmers.

“The focus has so far been on consumers, like importing onions when prices shot up,” Agarwal said. “Now we need to look at the producers, not just the consumers.”

He also said there was a case for fiscal stimulus, given that inflation fell to a 17-month low in November. Food inflation sank to a negative 2.61 percent from a negative 0.86 percent in October, according to official data released on Wednesday.

14/12/2018

Hunt on in India for leopard that killed meditating monk

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Indian forest rangers have launched a hunt for a leopard that killed a monk meditating under a tree deep in a jungle.

The monk, Rahul Walke Bodhi, had been meditating in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in the western state of Maharashtra for the last month, and was attacked while offering morning prayers on Tuesday, a forest official said.

Two other monks who were on their way to give him food said they witnessed the attack but Walke was dead by the time they reached him, according to a second forest official.

“I would like to tell everyone not to go into the forest,” Gajendra Narwane, deputy director of the reserve, told the BBC Marathi-language service.

Forest rangers have set up two cages and a camera trap to try to capture the animal. It was not clear what they would do with it if they caught it.

The forest, some 825 km (510 miles) east of the city of Mumbai, is in a reserve for big cats where four other fatal attacks have occurred in the last few weeks, according to media.

Forest officials have cordoned off the area where the monk was killed and are restricting the timing of visitor access to a Buddhist temple there.

14/12/2018

‘Racist’ Gandhi statue removed from University of Ghana

Men removing the Gandhi statueImage copyrightEMMANUEL DZIVENU/JOYNEWS

A statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the famed Indian independence leader, has been removed from a university campus in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

University of Ghana lecturers began a petition for its removal shortly after it was unveiled in 2016 by India’s former President Pranab Mukherjee.

The petition said Gandhi was “racist” and African heroes should be put first.

In the wake of the row, Ghana’s government at the time said the statue would be relocated.

Lecturers and students told the BBC that the statue, originally located at the university’s recreational quadrangle, had been removed on Wednesday.

The university confirmed this, saying that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration was responsible.

Law student Nana Adoma Asare Adei told the BBC: “Having his statue means that we stand for everything he stands for and if he stands for these things [his alleged racism], I don’t think we should have his statue on campus.”

Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most celebrated figures of the 20th Century. He is best known for leading non-violent resistance to British colonial rule in India.

However, as a young man he lived and worked in South Africa, and although he has inspired people throughout the world his comments on black Africans have been controversial.

In his early writings he referred to black South Africans as “kaffirs” – a highly offensive racist slur. He also said that Indians were “infinitely superior” to black people.

Lecturers and students at the University of Ghana pose in celebration after statue is removed (12 December 2018)Image copyrightEMMANUEL DZIVENU/JOYNEWS
Image captionLecturers and students celebrated in front of the newly empty plinth after the statue was removed
14/12/2018

The fight over the Indian baby born in a bank queue

Khazanchi Nath with his mother
Image captionKhazanchi Nath was born two years ago as his mother Sarvesha Devi stood in a bank queue to withdraw cash

He arrived in the world with a bang. His birth in a bank queue made global news. But two-year-old Khazanchi Nath is now at the centre of a bitter fight between the two sides of his family and two villages because of his celebrity status. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey travels to rural Kanpur in northern India to piece together the toddler’s story.

Khazanchi, which means “treasurer”, was born in the state of Uttar Pradesh on 2 December 2016, less than a month after the Indian government banned 1,000 and 500 rupee notes overnight.

The decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, locally called demonetisation, led to a major cash crunch and for weeks millions of Indians were seen queuing outside banks to withdraw new currency notes.

A very heavily pregnant Sarvesha Devi had walked from her home in Sardar Pur village to the bank in Jhinjhak town and taken her place in the line – along with her mother-in-law Sashi Devi, her eldest child, 10-year-old daughter Priti, and hundreds of others – when she went into labour.

Her story made headlines and tiny Khazanchi became the poster boy in the state election campaign against India’s ruling BJP. When he was just over two months old, I travelled to their dusty village to see him.

Khazanchi Nath
Image captionKhazanchi’s birth made global news

Four months before his birth, his father had died from tuberculosis. Describing the trauma of giving birth in the bank, his mother told me she too would have died if it wasn’t for her mother-in-law.

But last week, when I wanted to see Khazanchi again, I had to visit another dusty village – Anantpur Dhaukal, where his mother moved last year after a bitter row with her in-laws. It’s where Sarvesha Devi’s parental home is, where her mother and three brothers live with their families.

Khazanchi is curious about me – he fixes his kohl-lined eyes on me and, at his mother’s prompting, shakes my hand. I ask him who painted his nails deep pink. He smiles and points at Priti, his sister.

Unaware of the bitter battle being fought over him, he seems more interested in my glasses and tries to snatch away my phone when I get close to him to take a photo.

Sarvesha Devi borrows two wobbly plastic chairs from a neighbour’s house and we sit facing each other to chat. Within minutes, Khazanchi begins to get cranky. “He’s hungry,” she says and starts breastfeeding him. By now, word has spread about my visit and we are soon joined by her mother, her brothers and a few neighbours.

Once Khazanchi has quietened down, I ask Sarvesha Devi about her relationship with her mother-in-law. This time, she has nothing complimentary to say about Sashi Devi. In fact, the relationship has soured so much that she talks about threats to life – her own and Khazanchi’s.

After her baby was born, Sarvesha Devi was awarded 200,000 rupees ($2,990; £2,395) as compensation from the government for having to give birth in a bank queue.

Khazanchi with his mother and siblings
Image captionKhazanchi lives with his mother and four siblings

The previously life-saving, loving mother-in-law is now described as the dreaded monster-in-law whom she accuses of hitting her regularly and demanding half the compensation money.

It’s a significant amount of money for a family steeped in poverty with no fixed sources of income. And it was then that the family relations began unravelling.

So what happened that tore the family apart like this? That’s the question I posed to Sarvesha Devi – and to her mother-in-law when I visited her later in Sardar Pur. And their family members and villagers.

In the claims and counterclaims, sometimes it’s difficult to sift the truth from falsehood, to understand who’s being honest and who’s just exaggerating.

Khazanchi’s family belongs to the Baiga tribe, which is among India’s poorest and most deprived communities. They have little education, own no land and most make a living through begging.

Traditionally though, the Baigas were snake-charmers, and even though catching snakes was outlawed a long time ago, every time I’ve visited them, they’ve proudly shown off reptiles.

baby cobra
Image captionKhazanchi’s family belongs to the Baiga tribe, who have traditionally worked as snake-charmers

This time too, one villager asks me if I want to see the latest catch and even before I can respond, an angry baby cobra is brought out of a basket. He prods and pokes the reptile which begins to crawl on the ground, less than a metre from me. It’s defanged, he assures me.

It’ll grow up to three times its current size, he explains before packing it back in the basket. I keep a wary eye on it as we resume talking.

Uttar Pradesh, where Sardar Pur and Anantpur Dhaukal villages are located, is India’s most populous state. It’s home to more than 200 million people and more than 15,000 babies are born here daily, so it’s difficult to imagine that the birth of one child could generate much excitement.

But Khazanchi was catapulted to stardom because of the circumstances of his birth, and that it came at a time when the state was getting ready to hold key regional elections. The then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav used the “birth in the bank queue” to point out what a misadventure demonetisation had been.

He invoked the infant at every political rally, insisting that PM Modi’s currency ban had hurt the poor most, the sort of family that is Khazanchi’s.

A few months after his birth, Mr Yadav presented his mother with the compensation money.

Sashi Devi and Sarvesha Devi
Image captionJust after Khazanchi’s birth, Sarvesha Devi (right) said she would have died if were not for her mother-in-law

Sarvesha Devi says she spent a part of it clearing debts her husband had left and on the treatment of her eldest son, who also suffers from tuberculosis. The remainder has been secured in a bank deposit.

But then, she says, her mother-in-law demanded half the reward money and when she refused, “the family threw me on the ground and beat me up”. And that’s when she decided to leave.

The 37-year-old mother-of-five, who walks with a very pronounced limp, says she refused to part with the money because “I’m disabled and with my husband gone, there’s no-one to look after my children and I have to secure our future”.

Relations further deteriorated after she moved. Malkhan Nath, her eldest brother, says he’s come under pressure from the community to send her back.

“We keep telling her that’s your family, your home, please go back, but she refuses because she says they beat her and treat her badly. We don’t know what to do. She’s my sister: how can I tell her to go if she doesn’t want to?”

The family dispute is now in the community court that Malkhan Nath calls their “high court”. It comprises prominent community elders who adjudicate in matters involving Baigas. Their rulings are not legally binding, but they’re rarely ignored because the defiant can face a social boycott and have to pay monetary fines.

Malkhan Nath says that in the past year he’s had to appear before the “court” three times, and that once he had to pay 650 rupees as a fine because his sister defied the order to appear along with Khazanchi.

Malkhan Nath
Image captionMalkhan Nath says he’s come under pressure from the community to send his sister back to her in-laws’ home

Matters came to a head earlier this month. On 1 December, a day before Khazanchi’s birthday, Sarvesha Devi says two car-loads of officials turned up late at night at her home.

“I was just sitting down for dinner and Khazanchi was asleep. They insisted that we go with them to Sardar Pur for his birthday celebrations the next day. I refused, so they picked him up and took him to the car. He woke up and started crying. We raised an alarm and chased them. All our neighbours came over and helped us rescue him. They were trying to kidnap him,” she insists.

Though Mr Yadav didn’t win last year’s regional election, he has maintained contact with Khazanchi. Local journalists say he had planned to use the toddler as his mascot for the general elections due in the summer and had announced that he would be gifting him two homes on his birthday – one each in Sardar Pur and Anantpur Dhaukal.

The plan was for the former chief minister to visit Sardar Pur on his birthday and hand over the keys to Khazanchi. With local journalists invited to cover the celebrations, it was meant to be a perfect photo-op.

But when Mr Yadav arrived at Sardar Pur, Khazanchi wasn’t there so the keys were handed over to Sashi Devi.

Clearly disappointed at the toddler’s absence, Mr Yadav said he didn’t know about the “battle between his maternal and paternal grandmothers” and sacked two senior party colleagues for “embarrassing” him.

Sashi Devi (sitting on the left) and Asharfi Nath (right)
Image captionSashi Devi’s relations with her daughter-in-law have turned bitter in the last year

A few days later when I visited Sardar Pur, I found the spanking new house right by the roadside. Sashi Devi had gone to the market, so I chatted with her relatives and neighbours as I waited for her return. The marigold flowers used to decorate the house had nearly wilted, and the mood was downbeat too.

“A lot of people had gathered to see Khazanchi, but his mother chose to stay away,” says his great-uncle Asharfi Nath. “Mr Yadav had come laden with presents, but he took it back. Sarvesha Devi could have come for an hour. By refusing to attend the celebrations, she humiliated Mr Yadav.”

The villagers say all was well until Khazanchi’s birth and they blame “the greed and jealousy of his mother’s family and her village” for ruining things. They allege that her family wants her money and her village believes that if the boy stays there, they will see development.

The villagers also darkly hint at a wider political conspiracy – Sardar Pur supports Mr Yadav’s Samajwadi Party while Anantpur Dhaukal is dominated by upper-caste Thakurs who support Mr Modi’s BJP.

Mulayam Nath, a villager, says if Sarvesha Devi doesn’t want to return, she can stay on in her parental village but “she must send Khazanchi back because he is our baby, he belongs to our village. The progress and the benefits the authorities have promised must come to us”.

By the time Sashi Devi returns, it’s beginning to get dark. She squats on the ground outside the newly constructed house as I ask her to respond to the allegations against her.

“It’s all lies,” she says. “I never asked my daughter-in-law for any money. She’s been coached to say what she’s saying.”

Khazanchi's pink nail paint

Sashi Devi talks about how Sarvesha Devi and her five children were fed and clothed by the family when her son was too sick to work. And in the months after his death, how the little money her husband and other sons brought home was shared with her even though no-one was obliged to do so.

She rejects allegations that they ever hit Sarvesha Devi. “I have four more daughters-in-law and 16 grandchildren. How come no-one else gets hit?” she asks.

She has her own stories of assault and abuse: “I went to her village twice to bring her and the children back. Each time, they hid Khazanchi, and the women there assaulted me.”

Sashi Devi also rubbishes the charge that she or any of her family members could hurt Sarvesha Devi or Khazanchi. “How can we kill our own daughter-in-law and grandchild?”

As I prepare to leave, I ask her if there’s any chance of a reconciliation, but she’s not very hopeful.

“I’ve met her thrice recently and asked her to come back and live in her new house, but she has refused,” she says, wiping a tear with the corner of her sari. “Earlier, I lost my son. Now I’ve lost my grandchildren too.”

14/12/2018

‘Not for court to scrutinise’: What the Supreme Court said in Rafale deal verdict

In a big victory for the Narendra Modi led NDA government, the Supreme Court on Friday gave a clean chit to the Centre on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

A three-Judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi dismissed all the petitions, and said no Rafale probe was required.

The petitions seeking probe into the deal were filed by Prashant Bhushan, Arun Shourie, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, advocates M.L.Sharma and Vineet Dhanda, and AAP lawmaker in Parliament Sanjay Singh.

Read | No Rafale probe, Supreme Court dismisses petitions

Taking up the petitions on Friday, the CJI said the court studied the materials carefully and interacted with defence officials, and was “satisfied” with the NDA government’s decision making process.

Here’s what the Supreme Court said in its order:

  • “The court does not find substantial matter to interfere with issue of procurement, pricing and offset partner in Rafale jet deal.”
  • “We studied the materials carefully, interacted with defence officials and we are satisfied with decision making process.”
  • “This is not court’s job to deal with pricing details of Rafale fighter jets.”
  • “We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the procurement process. A country cannot afford to be under-prepared. Not correct for the court to sit as an appellant authority and scrutinise all aspects.”
  • “There is no reason for interference in the choice of offset partner and perception of individuals can’t be the basis for roving inquiry in sensitive issue of defence procurement.”
  • “We do not find any material to show that it is commercial favouritism.”
  • “We cannot compel the government to purchase 126 aircraft.”
  • “There has been necessity of fighter aircraft and country cannot remain without fighter jets.”

 

The bench had on November 14 reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking a Rafale probe.

Reserving its verdict, the Supreme Court had said the pricing details of Rafale jets could only be discussed once it decided on whether to make it public.

The observation by the apex court had come after the government refused to publicly divulge pricing details of the deal, saying the Rafale deal pricing details are a matter of “national security” and cannot come under judicial review.

Read | Matter of ‘national security’, not for court to review Rafale deal: Centre to SC

The verdict comes as a major boost for the Narendra Modi government that had been cornered over the Rafale deal ahead of the five-state Assembly elections.

Manufactured by aerospace company Dassault Aviation, the Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft.

India has signed an agreement with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, costing approximately Rs 58,000-crore (about USD 8 billion), in a fly-away condition for Indian Air Force equipment upgrade.

The verdict comes as a major boost for the Narendra Modi government that had been cornered over the Rafale deal ahead of the five-state Assembly elections.

SNS Web | New Delhi | 

n a big victory for the Narendra Modi led NDA government, the Supreme Court on Friday gave a clean chit to the Centre on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

A three-Judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi dismissed all the petitions, and said no Rafale probe was required.

The petitions seeking probe into the deal were filed by Prashant Bhushan, Arun Shourie, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, advocates M.L.Sharma and Vineet Dhanda, and AAP lawmaker in Parliament Sanjay Singh.

Taking up the petitions on Friday, the CJI said the court studied the materials carefully and interacted with defence officials, and was “satisfied” with the NDA government’s decision making process.

Here’s what the Supreme Court said in its order:

  • “The court does not find substantial matter to interfere with issue of procurement, pricing and offset partner in Rafale jet deal.”
  • “We studied the materials carefully, interacted with defence officials and we are satisfied with decision making process.”
  • “This is not court’s job to deal with pricing details of Rafale fighter jets.”
  • “We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the procurement process. A country cannot afford to be under-prepared. Not correct for the court to sit as an appellant authority and scrutinise all aspects.”
  • “There is no reason for interference in the choice of offset partner and perception of individuals can’t be the basis for roving inquiry in sensitive issue of defence procurement.”
  • “We do not find any material to show that it is commercial favouritism.”
  • “We cannot compel the government to purchase 126 aircraft.”
  • “There has been necessity of fighter aircraft and country cannot remain without fighter jets.”

 

The bench had on November 14 reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking a Rafale probe.

Reserving its verdict, the Supreme Court had said the pricing details of Rafale jets could only be discussed once it decided on whether to make it public.

The observation by the apex court had come after the government refused to publicly divulge pricing details of the deal, saying the Rafale deal pricing details are a matter of “national security” and cannot come under judicial review.

Read | Matter of ‘national security’, not for court to review Rafale deal: Centre to SC

The verdict comes as a major boost for the Narendra Modi government that had been cornered over the Rafale deal ahead of the five-state Assembly elections.

Manufactured by aerospace company Dassault Aviation, the Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft.

India has signed an agreement with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, costing approximately Rs 58,000-crore (about USD 8 billion), in a fly-away condition for Indian Air Force equipment upgrade.

14/12/2018

World stocks tumble on weak economic data from China and Europe

LONDON (Reuters) – Stocks worldwide tumbled on Friday after weak economic data from China and Europe fanned concerns of a global economic slowdown and left investors fretting over the wider impact of a still-unresolved Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

The MSCI All-Country World Index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks stocks across 47 countries, was down half a percent.

Euro zone business ended the year on a weak note, expanding at the slowest pace in over four years as new order growth all but dried up, hurt by trade tensions and violent protests in France, a survey showed.

Another survey showed French business activity plunged unexpectedly into contraction this month, retreating at the fastest pace in over four years in the face of violent anti-government protests.

Germany’s private sector expansion slowed to a four-year low, meanwhile, suggesting growth in Europe’s largest economy may be weak in the final quarter.

The data out of Europe added to weak readings from China, where November retail sales grew at the weakest pace since 2003 and industrial output rose the least in nearly three years, underlining risks to the economy as Beijing works to defuse a trade dispute with the United States.

Stock markets in Europe opened sharply lower, with Germany’s DAX index .GDAXIfalling 1-1/2 percent. The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 1.3 percent. [.EU]

“The data this morning out of France really hasn’t helped the mood. You look at China data, you look at the flash PMIs out of France and Germany and they’ve really sort of reinforced concerns that the global economy is slowing down,” said Michael Hewson, chief markets analyst at CMC Markets in London.

“Ultimately, I think it rather questions the wisdom of the ECB ending its asset purchase programme at the end of this month. You’ve got Mario Draghi basically tightening into a downturn.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 1.5 percent. Japan’s Nikkei .N225, also dragged down by the country’s weak tankan sentiment index, dropped 2.0 percent.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite .SSEC and the blue-chip CSI 300 .CSI300closed down 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng .HSI was off 1.5 percent.

A Chinese statistics bureau spokesman said the November data showed downward pressure on the economy is increasing.

The data “means that the worst is yet to come and policymakers will be very worried, particularly with consumption growth falling off a cliff,” said Sue Trinh, head of Asia FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets in Hong Kong.

“So I expect further support measures including rate cuts will come in coming weeks, although these data would indicate measures to date aren’t really working.”

The Chinese yuan weakened 0.4 percent to 6.9063 per dollar CNH=D4 in offshore trade following the data.

“Although hopes of progress in U.S.-China talks and cheap valuations are supporting the market for now, we have lots of potential pitfalls,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“If U.S. shares fall below their triple bottoms hit recently, that would be a very weak technical sign.”

Overnight on Wall Street, the S&P 500 .SPX ticked down 0.02 percent to 2,650, not far from its 6-1/2-month closing low of 2,633 touched on Nov. 23, while the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 0.39 percent.

U.S. corporate earnings due next month could throw a spotlight on the impact from the U.S. tariffs on imports from China, while there is risk of a government shutdown and further political stalemate in a divided U.S. congress, Kuramochi added.

In the currency market, the euro was down 0.7 percent after the weak PMIs, last changing hands at $1.1293.[FRX/]

Sterling’s rally fizzled as signs that the British parliament was headed towards a deadlock over Brexit prompted traders to take profits from its gains made after Prime Minister Theresa May had survived a no-confidence vote.

The European Union has said the agreed Brexit deal is not open for renegotiation even though its leaders on Thursday gave May assurances that they would seek to agree a new pact with Britain by 2021 so that the contentious Irish “backstop” is never triggered.

The pound fell 0.6 percent to $1.2615 GBP=D3, on track to post its fifth consecutive week of losses. It was down 0.9 percent so far this week.

The dollar stood at 113.48 yen JPY=, down 0.1 percent on the day but above this week’s low of 112.245 set on Monday.

Oil prices gave up some of their Thursday’s gains following inventory declines in the United States and expectations that the global oil market could have a deficit sooner than they had previously thought.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 edged down 0.5 percent to $52.32 per barrel and Brent crude LCOc1 slipped 0.6 percent to $61.09, after both gained more than 2.5 percent on Thursday.

Cryptocurrency Bitcoin BTC=BTSP fell as low as $3,200, a fresh 15-month low.

A rash of bomb threats were emailed on Thursday to hundreds of businesses, public offices and schools across the United States and Canada demanding payment in cryptocurrency, but none of the threats appeared credible, law enforcement officials said.

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