Under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, Devas founder Viswanathan, an American of Indian origin, petitioned the US State Department to impose visa and economic sanctions against 11 Indians, including Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, for human rights violations and corruption.
The petition is a part of the ongoing legal dispute between the Indian government and Devas, a business formed by the petitioner Ramachandran Viswanathan, over the enforcement of a $1 billion arbitration judgement.
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Viswanathan has asserted that the Indian Government has submitted “false charges of fraud and criminal conduct to Interpol in a deliberate effort to get a Red Notice” for his arrest and extradition, in order to draw attention to the human rights issue.
Apart from the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Antrix CEO Rakesh Sasibhushan, the petition has also been filed against two Supreme Court judges, Ashish Pareek (CBI), Sanjay Kumar Mishra and other Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials.
The Global Magnitsky Act gives the US Government the power to impose sanctions on foreign officials who are found to have committed violations of human rights, as well as to freeze their assets and ban them from entering the country.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Sitharaman has blamed the erstwhile Congress-led UPA government over the entire matter and cited a Supreme Court decision that upheld the National Company Law Tribunal’s orders asking the promoters to dissolve the company because the deal with Antrix was rife with fraud.
A transaction between Devas and an ISRO subsidiary, Antrix, was cancelled by the UPA government, due to which the disappointed investors filed three cases for international arbitration. Furthermore, India lost all of them, but the founder of Devas, Viswanathan, has ignited a new controversy, claiming the ownership of Air India’s assets in Canada and Indian Government-owned property in France.