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NSA Ajit Doval in US; to meet Secretary of State and other top officials

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Ajit Doval

Washington | A week after the successful 2+2 Dialogue in New Delhi, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is in Washington to hold meetings with top officials of the Trump Administration.

Doval, who is held in high esteem by the Trump Administration, is scheduled to meet the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department on Friday.

In addition to his meeting with his American counterpart John Bolton, Doval is likely to meet officials from the Department of Defence and from the think-tank community. However, the Indian Embassy in Washington and the White House did not immediately respond to questions about Doval’s visit and his meetings.

“India is a very close friend of the United States,” the State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters at her daily news conference. She had accompanied Pompeo to New Delhi last week for the two-plus-two Dialogue.

“We have among the strongest people-to-people ties. I think there are more than three million Indian Americans living here in the United States, so that was certainly part of the meetings and the conversations, she said in response to a question.

The signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement or COMCASA last week, she said, was something important that had been in the making for a long time, she said.

“So we were pleased to have signed that (COMCASA) with the Indian Government because that not only supports jobs but also supports better military-to-military cooperation. They also agreed to doing more work on the military-to-military front. So that was part of the conversation but also to go over there and thank the new government for our strong friendship that we have, Nauert said.

During the meetings, discussions are likely to be primarily focused on bilateral and security in the Af-Pak region, in particular, those related to counter-terrorism. It is understood that the visit is likely to lay the groundwork of the potential visit of the US President Donald Trump to India.

Trump has accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit India. The two sides are currently looking at various dates including Trump as Chief Guest at the mega Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2019.

Responding to a question on Pompeo’s trip to Pakistan, the spokesperson said the Secretary of State had some meaningful and important meetings with the new government. Looking forward to forging a relationship with that new government, recognizing that there are, of course, some tensions and some areas where the government can work harder. “And so those were the types of meetings that we had and we were pleased to have gone,” she said.

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India, Spain discuss cooperation in defence, counter-terrorism

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Sushma Swaraj is warmly received by Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontellas at the Viana Palace, Minister’s official residence

Madrid | India and Spain on Tuesday discussed cooperation in trade, defence and counter terrorism as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with her Spanish counterpart Josep Borrell.

On behalf the government, Swaraj also accepted the prestigious Grand Cross of Order of Civil Merit conferred by Spain in recognition of India’s support in evacuating 71 Spanish nationals during April 2015 Nepal earthquake.

Swaraj was warmly received by Borrell at the Viana Palace, his official residence, ahead of the meeting. This was their third meeting in five months.

“EAM Swaraj and Spanish Foreign Minister held detailed talks over a working breakfast. Took stock of relationship across the spectrum, specially in trade & investment, defence & security, counter terrorism, culture and tourism,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

Swaraj, who arrived in Spain on Monday, also interacted with the Indian community in Spain and thanked them for their contribution in diverse fields and promoting India-Spain relations.

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Appellate Tribunal scraps ₹ 2,000 crore tax demand of Harshad Mehta 17 years after his death

Ali Azar

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The original “big bull” or as some articles stated “raging bull” of the Indian stock market from way back in the late 1980’s and early 90’s – Harshad Mehta, who also happens to have perpetrated the biggest stock market scam, which is pegged to be in the vicinity of 4,000 to 5,000 crores in the 90’s, is back in the news again, some 17 years after his death, at the age of just 47, during custody.

There is good news for the late Harshad Mehta and his family which includes his wife Jyoti and his brother Ashwin. After 27 years of an intense battle involving claims, couter-claims and cross appeals, an Income Tax demand on him and his family members, of little above ₹ 2,000 crores has finally been scrapped by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), reviving memories of the 1992 securities scam that shook the country and changed the rules of the game on Dalal Street.

The ITAT while scrapping the additions made by the IT Department for the assessment year 1992-93, made an observation that every receipt of money cannot be termed as a taxable income by default, and it is the job of the department to compute the correct taxable income embedded in every transaction. The Tribunal reiterated that this cardinal principle of taxation must be followed notwithstanding the magnitude of the scam and in spite of probes and observations by Joint Parliamentary Committee, RBI, CBI and the seizure of volumes of documents by the IT Department.

The scam perpetrated by Harshad Metha involved colluding with bank employees to get fake bank receipts issued to him. He then used these fake bank receipts to make other banks lend him money against those receipts, and used the proceeds to invest in the stock market and artificially drive up the price of stocks. In one case he took the share price of ACC Cement up from ₹ 200 to ₹ 9000, which was an increase of 4400%.

However, the day he sold the shares to book profits, volumes were so large that the entire market crashed.

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Robert Vadra skips ED appearance, cites bad health

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Robert Vadra

New Delhi | Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Tuesday skipped his scheduled appearance before the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case probe, citing his bad health, officials said.

They said Vadra’s lawyers informed the investigating officer (IO) of the case their client is unwell and hence will be unable to join the probe related to allegations of money laundering to purchase assets abroad.

They said the businessman, also the son-in-law of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, may appear either on Wednesday or on a mutually acceptable date later this week. Vadra was questioned by the ED in this case for 23 hours over three days of deposition earlier this month. He has been asked by a Delhi court to cooperate in the probe being conducted by the central probe agency.

The ED case against Vadra relates to allegations of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property located at 12, Bryanston Square worth 1.9 million GBP (British pounds), which is allegedly owned by him.

The agency had told the court that it has received information about various new properties in London which belong to Vadra. These include two houses, one worth 5 million GBP and the other valued at 4 million GBP, six other flats and more properties.

Vadra has denied the allegations of possessing illegal foreign assets and termed them a political witch hunt against him. He said he was being “hounded and harassed” to subserve political ends.

Sources said Vadra’s statement was recorded under Section 50 (powers of authorities regarding summons, production of documents and to give evidence) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), on the last three occasions.

His appearance before the ED earlier this month acquired political overtones after his wife Priyanka Gandhi, recently appointed Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, accompanied him to the investigating agency’s office on one day while she picked him up after questioning the next time.

Vadra had similarly deposed before the ED twice in Jaipur in an another money-laundering case related to an alleged land scam in Bikaner.

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