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Venkaiah Naidu to visit Serbia, Malta and Romania

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Venkaiah Naidu

New Delhi | Vice President Venkaiah Naidu will embark on a three-nation tour to Serbia, Malta and Romania from September 14 to 20 to boost ties with the Central European countries, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Thursday.

In the first leg of his visit, Naidu will be visiting Serbia from September 14 to September 16, Anju Kumar, Joint Secretary (Central Europe) in the Ministry of External Affairs, told a media briefing.

The visit is at the invitation of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, she said.

“And it is coming after a long gap. In fact, after the break-up of Yugoslavia, it is the first time that a dignitary (from India) is visiting the country,” the official said.

Serbia has an unconditional and open visa policy for India, Kumar said.

During his visit, Naidu will hold talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, speaker of the national assembly and the prime minister of that country.

Naidu will also address a special session of the National Assembly, Kumar said, adding the venue of the session will be the place where the first announcement of the historic Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) was made.

Vucic had visited India to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Summit last year in the capacity of a prime minister.

The MEA joint secretary said the focus of the visit will be on trade.

Bilateral trade between India and Serbia stands at around USD 200 million with a focus on areas like agriculture and agricultural technologies, science and technology, education, tourism and pharmaceutical.

In the second leg of the tour, Naidu will visit Malta from September 16 to September 18.

Malta, a country in the Mediterranean, lies on the crossroads of North Africa and Europe and is also a trans-shipment hub.

During the visit, Naidu will visit Maltese President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the speaker of the House of the Representatives and the acting prime minister of that country, the MEA said.

The vice president will also have an interaction with the Indian diaspora and attend a business event where 180-200 companies are likely to participate.

Last year, India had opened a permanent high commission in Malta. The country also actively cooperated in the evacuation of Indians from Libya in 2011 and 2014.

In the last leg, Naidu will visit Romania from September 18 to September 20, the ministry said.

The visit coincides with 70th year of Indo-Romanian ties and the centenary year of Romania.

During the visit, Naidu will meet Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, the president of Romanian Senate and the prime minister. He will also address a session of Chamber of Deputies in the Romanian Parliament.

Naidu will also have a business meet and interact with the Indian diaspora, Kumar said.

Several crucial pacts are expected to be signed during the visit to the three countries, the MEA official said.

The vice president will be accompanied by Shiv Pratap Shukla, Minister of State in the finance ministry; Rajya Sabha MPs– Prasanna Acharya (Biju Janata Dal-BJD), Vijila Sathyananth (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-AIADMK) and Saroj Pandey (Bharatiya Janata Party-BJP); and Lok Sabha MP Raghav Lakhanpal (BJP).

Earlier this month, President Ram Nath Kovind visited Cyprus, Bulgaria and Czech Republic.

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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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