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I did not receive any notice: Bhim Singh

Praveen Swami

"Taking a political donation, in whatever form, is not a crime" "A thorough investigation would have sought to ascertain why an allocation was made to him by the regime of President Hussein, and why he chose to turn down the offer."

NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party chairman Bhim Singh on Saturday denied that he had received either notice or a call for responses from the United Nations Committee that investigated the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.

Paul Volcker, the chairperson of the Independent Committee appointed by the United Nations to investigate the scandal, told journalists on Friday in New York that all those named in the report were "notified that they are going to be listed, and we also indicated what their response was, if any."

"I did not receive any notice from either the Independent Committee or from any other United Nations body before I was named as a non-contractual beneficiary of oil-for-food allocations," Mr. Singh told The Hindu . He said that he had first heard of his having been named by the Volcker Committee through a journalist-acquaintance of his, late last year.

`No response'

Subsequently, he said, he had "written to the United Nations Secretary-General making clear the facts and demanding an explanation for the allegations." No response was received, Mr. Singh asserted, except a brief note received recently, which advised him that the report of the Independent Committee had been posted online.

He noted that a thorough investigation would have sought to ascertain why an allocation was made to him by the regime of President Hussein, and why he chose to turn down the offer. "Rationally", he noted, "the Independent Committee would also have made some effort to determine whether the allocations were really meant for me, or whether my name was just used as a façade by some corrupt individuals within the Iraqi administration."

`Not illegal'

Although Mr. Singh did not lift the oil allocations made to him, either personally or through a corporation acting on his behalf, he believes that to have done so would not have been illegal. "While you could debate the ethics of receiving such an allocation," he argued "that does not mean that a crime was committed. To have supported Saddam Hussein was not a criminal act, but a political choice."

"Even if the Congress party or anyone else did receive an oil allocation", Mr. Singh asked, "where would be the crime? So, if the Congress did indeed make money from an allocation, illegality would only be involved if the income was concealed from Indian tax authorities. Taking a political donation, in whatever form, is not a crime — and the Bharatiya Janata Party certainly has no business complaining."

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