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ICYMI: Concern Growing in Washington Over Modi’s Autocratic Behavior

There appears to be growing concern out of Washington with Modi’s increasingly autocratic behavior.

Writing this week in the International Business Times, Daniel Sepulveda, a former Obama official in the State Department, highlights that under Modi there has been a “noticeable decline in India’s rule of law & commitment to protecting human freedoms.”

Amb. Sepulveda continues by highlighting “India’s decision to increase purchases of Russian oil, its recent human rights record… and its poor investment climate” and the weaponization by Modi’s regime of “government-controlled enforcement and intelligence agencies have personally targeted business owners and personnel from companies like Devas, even going as far as requesting the arrest and extradition of its co-founder, Indian-American businessman Ramachandran Viswanathan.”

Read the full opinion editorial from Ambassador Sepulveda here.

Leading U.S. Legal Publication Highlights Concerns of U.S. Senator Grassley

This week, Law360 highlighted concerns by Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee on how India is abusing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) and the Interpol Red notice process.

As we previously reported, Senator Grassley wrote a letter to the United States’ top law enforcement official, Attorney General Merrick Garland, where he urged the Department of Justice to “protect Americans from foreign governments seeking to abuse the MLAT and Red Notice process to undermine the rule of law and retaliate against adverse litigants in international disputes.”

Grassley also raised concerns with the efforts by the Indian government to extradite Devas founder, Ramachandran Viswanathan, writing, “India has improperly requested that Interpol issue a Red Notice against Ramachandran Viswanathan, a U.S. citizen.

The abuse of the Red Notice process of Interpol by foreign actors has previously stoked concern among other top Congressional leaders. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin has stated “By co-opting and undermining the rule of law to harass and intimidate dissidents and political opponents, corrupt regimes threaten our national security.”  

Mr. Viswanathan has faced harassment and legal actions from Modi’s regime. Earlier this year, Modi’s government requested that Interpol issue a Red Notice for Mr. Viswanathan based on sham proceedings taking place before court(s) appointed by Modi himself.

What has become all too clear is that this behavior is part of a retaliatory effort by the Modi government to evade payment on the billions in arbitration awards owed to Devas and punish Mr. Viswanathan for pursuing enforcement of the arbitration awards.

Matthew D. McGill, lead counsel to Devas shareholders and Partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, said to Law 360 that the manufactured allegations India has levied against Mr. Viswanathan were little more than “an effort to whitewash the historical record.”

He added, “It’s a weaponization of their justice system in very much the same manner that Russia had weaponized its own criminal justice system against the shareholders of Yukos [Oil Co.] and such. It’s a playbook that, unfortunately, authoritarian regimes sometimes turn to when they are frustrated with the outcomes of commercial disputes.

However, the actions of Modi’s government should be of no surprise. A June report from Freedom House exposed India as one of 14 countries that consistently abuses Interpol “to detain and extradite people whom they view as dissenting voices.”

Read the full article from Law360 here.

Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Exposes Modi’s Unlawful Actions against Devas Founder

The Modi government’s abuse of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters between the U.S. and India, and of the Interpol Red Notice process, more broadly, is creating deep concern in Washington.

This week, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland raising concerns that India (and other foreign governments) are abusing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) and the Interpol Red Notice Process.

This has consequences for the Modi government’s illegal persecution of Devas co-founder Ramachandran Viswanathan. In his letter to AG Garland, Senator Grassley highlights how “India has improperly requested that Interpol issue a Red Notice against Ramachandran Viswanathan, a U.S. citizen.”

U.S. Senator Grassley is ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice (DOJ). Grassley continues by emphasizing the critical role that DOJ plays in ensuring American citizens who are business entrepreneurs are protected from unlawful attempts by foreign governments to “undermine the rule of law” and “retaliate against adverse litigants in international disputes.

Mr. Viswanathan has experienced firsthand the desperate, illegal attempts by the Modi government to abuse Interpol Red Notices and harass him for enforcing arbitration awards against India. These attempts undoubtedly amount to a retaliatory campaign of transnational repression.

Finally, Grassley writes how the Justice Department themselves have identified the failure of foreign governments like Modi’s to ensure the MLAT requests met the minimum standards of evidence required under U.S. law and cited a recent report that indicated India has committed significant misuse of the Red Notice process.

Read the full letter from Senator Grassley here.

U.S. Authorities Unresponsive to India’s Requests

Recently, India’s Public Prosecutor admitted before the Special Court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act that U.S. authorities have been unresponsive to requests from Indian law enforcement agencies to execute warrants against Mr. Viswanathan.

The comments from Senator Grassley only strengthen the case for the U.S. government to ignore the bogus and unlawful attempts by India to extradite an American citizen, Mr. Viswanathan, and to prosecute him before a kangaroo court appointed by Modi.

Agreement Existed to Settle the Devas-India Dispute

Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported that the Indian government called a secret meeting in February 2020 with representatives of Devas at a lavish Paris hotel to hash out an agreement to settle their long-running dispute over the unlawful cancellation of a contract in 2011.

According to the Financial Times, Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Modi and Alur Seelin Kiran Kumar, former chair of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), represented the Indian government at the closed-door meeting, while co-founder Ramachandran Viswanathan represented Devas along with Larry Babbio, the former president of Verizon and Columbia Capital partner Jim Fleming.

Moreover, the Financial Times reports: “Following the meeting, a deal was drafted which included a provision that all proceedings, including a probe by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, be dropped. However, the Indian government abruptly stopped responding to Devas’s calls.”

Read the full article from the Financial Times here.

Politically Motivated

The Financial Times reports the Modi government has made the case politicized, “providing Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party with a means of attacking the Congress party, its chief political rival, that struck the contract with Devas when it was in power between 2004 and 2014.”

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave a political campaign speech where she called the Devas-Antrix deal a “fraud of the Congress, by the Congress, for the Congress.”

Well-known professor of law at India’s Jindal Global Law School, Prabhash Ranjan, told the Financial Times “One of the endeavours [of the BJP] has always been to completely delegitimise the Congress party and whatever it did before 2014. The narrative is that before 2014 the country was run by a bunch of crooks who looted the country.”

Read the full article from the Financial Times here.

Indian Government Agreed to Drop Criminal Proceedings

Interestingly, the deal drafted “included a provision that all proceedings, including a probe by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, be dropped.”

Last week, the Hindu BusinessLine reported Modi’s government has become increasing desperate and has sought to declare Devas co-founder, Ramachandran Viswanathan, an “Economic Fugitive” in their phony Prevention of Money Laundering Act case against him.

Reacting to the recent proceedings by the Indian government against Viswanathan, Devas Counsel, Matthew D McGill said, “I believe that government of India’s actions against Viswanathan is a type of thuggish behaviour that we’re used to seeing from Russia, but not from the world’s largest democracy and amount to an intimidation campaign.” 

Read the full article from the Financial Times here.

India’s “Thuggish Behavior” against Devas Escalates with Red Notice Request

Recently, the Daily Caller reported that they had spoken to Ted Bromund, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and recognized expert on Interpolwho observed that India “commits more abuse than people are aware of.” Bromund warned that “governments can abuse the system to go after political dissidents, including uncooperative businessmen like Viswanathan.”

The Daily Caller also met with Mr. Viswanathan for an exclusive sit down where he spoke out about the Modi government’s campaign of lawless behavior in their desperate effort to pressure Devas shareholders to end their global enforcement efforts.

The interview revealed for the first time that the Indian government has sought a Red Notice from Interpol for the arrest of Mr. Viswanathan.

McGill commented that the Indian government’s actions amounted to an intimidation campaign and an international warrant for Mr. Viswanathan’s arrest would be “manufactured based on wholly fabricated allegations.

Interpol is yet to issue a ruling on the request but did reach out to the Indian government in May with more questions about their request against Mr. Viswanathan. Bromund notes the delay is likely because Interpol has “grave concerns” about the request from India.

Read the full article from the Daily Caller here.

Delhi’s Desperation Grows

Following the announcement of the Red Notice request against Mr. Viswanathan, the Hindu BusinessLine reported on the rising desperation inside the Modi regime as they attempt to evade paying the more than $1.5 billion owed to shareholders of Devas.

The Indian government has now sought to declare Devas founder, Ramachandran Viswanathan, an “Economic Fugitive” in the bogus Prevention of Money Laundering Act case against him.

The Enforcement Directorate, an arm of the Prime Minister’s finance ministry, has conjured up allegations of money laundering and fraud against Mr. Viswanathan and now seeks his extradition to India to face one of Modi’s kangaroo courts.

The “Economic Fugitive” status India seeks for Mr. Viswanathan is just another tactic in a long list of abusive techniques used by the Modi regime to harass and intimidate Devas from enforcing its rights.

Read the full article from the Hindu BusinessLine here.

Freedom House Exposes Transnational Repression Occurring at the Hands of the Modi Regime
Senator Grassley’s letter echoes the same concerns emphasized by Freedom House, who in a recent report drew attention to how Modi and other autocratic leaders are “increasingly and more aggressively disregarding US laws to threaten, harass, surveil, stalk, and even plot to physically harm people across the country.”

The new report, Defending Democracy in Exile, which focuses on increasingly aggressive cases of transnational repression by autocratic regimes looking to silence opponents.

The Freedom House report details a stark increase in worldwide cases of transnational repression in 2021, with 85 new cases of “public, direct, physical incidents of transnational repression” reported last year alone. The 42-page indictment warns of an alarming uptick of “brazen” actions by these regimes that seek to exploit international bodies like Interpol to advance their political agenda. The report names a number of countries that “demonstrated a dangerous disregard for international law, democratic norms, and state sovereignty”, including the Indian government.

Modi Government: “Physical Transnational Repression”

According to Freedom House, the Modi government has escalated the use of “physical transnational repression”, targeting the physical health and safety of those who assert their rights and defy the dictates of the Modi regime abroad.

Like other autocratic regimes, the report draws attention to the Modi government’s pursuit of political opponents outside its borders noting that these regimes are “increasingly and more aggressively disregarding US laws to threaten, harass, surveil, stalk, and even plot to physically harm people across the country.”

The author of the report, Yana Gorokhovskaia, explained that these regimes are promoting the idea that “people do not have the right to criticize those in power, no matter where they are in the world — not only at home but once they leave home as well.”

Under the Hindu nationalist rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has turned to authoritarianism. A 2021 report by Amnesty International showed that journalists, media outlets, and activists were “threatened and intimidated through the misuse of over-broad financial laws.” Political opposition and government critics face similar persecution, with Human Rights Watch noting these opposition voices “are accused of sedition, criminal defamation, or terrorism” and then face arbitrary detention and harassment.

The Berkley Journal of International Law details the Modi regime’s history of these violations, discussing how their attempts to silence outspoken activists, political opposition, and other voices, “by the use of force, arrests, internet shutdowns, and human rights violations” are all part of a broader pattern in Modi’s India that is “neither unprecedented nor surprising.”

Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of increasing cases of religious repression in India, stating “in India, the world’s largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we have seen rising attacks on people and places of worship.” His comments come just weeks after the Secretary declared the U.S. was closely monitoring India because of a “rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials.” Amnesty International has condemned the Modi government’s attacks on political opposition, noting they threaten the “well-being and human rights of millions.”

Bogus Red Notices; U.S. Congress Takes Hard Line

As the Washington Post explains, transnational repression is hard for any one country to fix. Organizations like Interpol are often the first port of call by the authoritarian governments, issuing “Red Notices against dissidents and exiles” as part of their intimidation and harassment campaign, and in the hope that unsuspecting governments will extradite them back to their motherland.

The U.S. Congress has had enough, and is demanding greater action from the U.S. Departments of Justice and State in the face of these tactics by autocratic regimes. U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) were successful in securing the inclusion of language in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that requires the Attorney General and Secretary of State to ensure Interpol is not used as a vehicle by these regimes to “harass or persecute political opponents, human rights defenders, or journalists.”

Millions Seized by Devas Shareholders

Despite the Modi government’s campaign of harassment, their use of physical transnational repression and continued unlawful behavior, Devas shareholders recently announced they have $55 million of monies held by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) that belong to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Air India (AI) under a seizure order.

At the time this was announced, Matthew D. McGill, stated, Devas will be relentless in its efforts to enforce our lawful international arbitral awards in courts around the world. We will not be intimidated by baseless allegations or the Government of India’s efforts to harass award holders through the use of government-controlled agencies.

Read the full story of the seizure here.