Devas vs Antrix tussle
The scam-hit Devas Multimedia has seized USD 145,000 cash that ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation held in the US in a bid to enforce a USD 1.2 billion compensation it had won over a canceled satellite deal, its lawyer said on Wednesday. Devas Multimedia America Inc seized the cash equivalent to Rs.1.1 crore after it got a favorable order from the Eastern District Court of Virginia, Matthew D McGill said.
Recently Devas filed a case against Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the US Court. Devas facing corruption charges in India has already suffered setbacks in Indian courts.
The satellite company has been embroiled in a fight with the Indian government since a contract it had to develop wireless broadband in the country was canceled in 2011 due to huge corruption allegations. It was awarded USD 1.2 billion in international arbitration rulings, but the government refused to pay, alleging that the original 2005 award of the contract was mired in fraud.
Devas shareholders, who include US investment groups Columbia Capital and Telecom Ventures as well as Deutsche Telekom, have since been targeting Indian state assets abroad to recover the money they think India owes the company. “The seizure of Antrix assets sends a clear message: Despite the Modi government’s thuggish tactics, bogus fraud claims, sham court proceedings, abuse of Interpol process, and transnational repression against Mr. Viswanathan, the shareholders of Devas will not waver in their pursuit to collect what they are rightfully owed from the Indian government,” said McGill, Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Lead Counsel to Devas Shareholders.
The seizure of the assets comes at a time when the Indian government is seeking the arrest and prosecution of Devas’ co-founder Ramachandran Viswanathan. Devas shareholders had previously got a French court order for freezing Indian properties in Paris and got partial rights over funds maintained by Indian funds in Canada. September 14, 2015, the ICC order was confirmed by the US court on October 27, 2020. The Mauritius investors themselves have been awarded a compensation of USD 111 million by an arbitration court, while another foreign investor Deutsche Telekom has been awarded USD 101 million.
The Devas investors targeted funds of the US satellite firm Intelsat Service and Equipment LLC which has outstanding dues payable to Antrix through proceedings in the US federal court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Antrix Corp told the court earlier this year that Intelsat, which is under bankruptcy proceedings in the Eastern District of Virginia, owed USD 146,457 and stated that this was the only asset of the company in the US. This is the asset that has been seized now.
In US courts, Devas shareholders also contended that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its new commercial arm New Space India Ltd are alter egos of Antrix and so they should be made to pay for the arbitration award.
Devas shareholders had previously in effect seized property in Paris’ upmarket 16th arrondissement after obtaining an asset freeze order from a Paris court allowing it to register a mortgage on the property. The building has previously served as the residence of the deputy chief of mission at the Indian embassy.
 In Ongoing Battle, Devas Files Petition In US Against Finance Minister Sitharaman, ED Officials – Aug 14, 2022, Techiai
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