Devas Multimedia, in its very long-running dispute with India’s Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its commercial arm Antrix, has won approval on January 3rd to target assets held in Virginia and to enforce a previous arbitration award.
ISRO was described in court as attempting a “brazen” plot hatched at its HQ in New Delhi to dodge its obligations to Devas.
The amount awarded is modest (about $30 million) and was being held by the International Air Transport Assoc. (IATA) on behalf of the State-owned Airports Authority of India.
The payments reflect decisions made in 2021 and passed by the Superior Court of Quebec on November 24th and again on December 21st last year and awarding an initial $6.8 million to Devas as part of the overall $30 million claim.
Devas has been fighting a decade-long legal battle against Antrix/ISRO. A statement by the senior adviser to the Devas shareholders Jay Newman says: “The action by Devas in Canada is just a start. Additional actions are forthcoming that will underscore that India is an unsafe place to invest in. No foreign investor should invest in a country where the government can ignore its contractual obligations and deploy its law enforcement agencies to harass and intimidate investors… Using government agencies to launch bogus criminal investigations against Devas will be seen around the world for what it is — an Indian government willing to debase the country’s reputation by lashing out at its victims rather than paying what it owes them.”
Under the original Antrix/Devas deal, ISRO was supposed to lease two communication satellites for 12 years to Devas Multimedia. Devas was to provide multimedia services to mobile platforms in India using S-band transponders on ISRO satellites. The deal was annulled by the Indian government in February 2011 amid the 2G crisis, saying the S-band spectrum was needed to meet the country’s security requirements.
After the cancellation of the deal, the foreign investors in Devas, including Deutsche Telekom, three Mauritius-based investors, and Devas itself, had approached international tribunals seeking compensation.
Deutsche Telekom was awarded $101 million compensation by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Geneva; the Mauritius investors were awarded $111 million by the International Trade Law tribunal; and Devas itself awarded $1.2 billion by an International Chamber of Commerce (on September 14th 2017).
After a US federal court in the western district of Washington confirmed the compensation awarded to Devas, on October 27th 2020, Antrix had gone on to appeal the decision to a US appeals court.