Key papers sought on Reliance Petroleum role in Iraqi oil deal

February 25th, 2009 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) The Enforcement Directorate has sought permission from the finance ministry to obtain some key documents from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to establish if Reliance Petroleum Ltd (RPL) had violated any Indian law in the oil-for-food programme of the erstwhile Saddam Hussein regime.

The Mukesh Ambani-led RPL was named among the “non-contractual beneficiaries” in the probe report on the oil-for-food programme investigated by the UN-appointed Volcker Committee for being allegedly awarded three crude oil contracts worth 19 million barrels.

Reliance Industries, the parent company of Reliance Petroleum, however said it has always abided by Indian laws.

In a letter to the Department of Revenue, the Enforcement Directorate said out of these 19 million barrels, a total of 15.78 million barrels were lifted and that a surcharge of $3,574,808.49 was paid to a designated Iraqi account, over and above the price of oil fixed by the UN.

“These contracts were originally allocated by SOMO (State Oil Marketing Organisation), Iraq, to RLP,” said the directorate’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by IANS.

Investigations by the directorate on the Volcker Report had revealed that the oil was allocated to RPL, which did not lift it itself but authorised another firm Alcon Petroleum of Liechtenstein to do so, said the letter.

“Hence the payment of the surcharge amounts (over and above the actual value of the oil) by RPL, or on their behalf, by some other person/entity to the Iraqi authorities, without the permission of the RBI (Reserve Bank of India), perhaps, cannot be ruled out,” the letter added.

The directorate has proposed to issue letters of request under Foreign Exchange Management Act, the Income Tax Act and the Civil Procedure Code to competent authorities in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to obtain “confirmation” and “supporting documents”.

“It is, therefore, requested that necessary permission of the competent authority may please be conveyed for issue of these letters of request by the directorate,” the letter added.

The Volcker report had said that the surcharge in question was paid to the Iraqi designated account maintained with the Jordan National Bank by certain individuals through wire transfers from accounts maintained in the First National Bank in Lebanon in the name of Jabal Petroleum and Petrocorp.

The probe was carried out by what is formally known as the Independent Inquiry Committee, headed by the former chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Board, Paul Volcker.

Reacting to the development, a Reliance Industries spokesperson said: “Reliance Industries Ltd has always followed national and international laws and norms in all its business transactions. We have not violated any rules and regulations laid down by RBI or FEMA.”

It said it had provided necessary information and extended cooperation to the authorities investigating the role of the various Indian entities who were mentioned in the report.

“However, we have not been approached by any government authority in the last two and a half years regarding this issue,” the spokesperson said, adding: “We have no relationship with the said firm.”

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