Karela Fry

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CBI on 2G till now

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The day the parliament’s budget session starts and a joint parliamentary commission on the 2G spectrum is likely to be announced, seems like a good day to take stock of the CBI’s investigations into the case.

Feb 15, 2011
Sanjay Chandra
Sanjay Chandra of Unitech was questioned, according to NDTV:

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today summoned Sanjay Chandra of Unitech for questioning in the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

This comes a week after the arrest of Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa.

The CBI also has summoned top officials of telecom companies that got 2G licenses. The CBI has called officials of Tata Realty, Loop and Unitech for questioning in the case.

CBI on Monday went to the court with new charges against the 10 private players that were favoured by former telecom minister A Raja for 2G licences.

In another development, the CBI conducted raids on Niira Radia’s offices, as TOI reported:

The CBI on Wednesday raided the homes and offices of business lobbyist Niira Radia, former telecom regulatory chief Pradeep Baijal and relatives of former communications minister A Raja over the 2G spectrum row.

In a coordinated operation, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials searched the New Delhi homes and offices of Radia, whose intercepted telephonic conversations showed her lobbying for Raja when a new government came in last year.

CBI deputy inspector general of police Vinita Thakur said that officials landed up at Radia’s Sainik Farms house in south Delhi as well as her plush office on Barakhamba Road in the heart of the city in the morning.

Feb 16, 2011
Anil Ambani
FT reports on the summons to Anil Ambani by the CBI:

Anil Ambani, the Indian billionaire whose telecoms group is under scrutiny as part of an acrimonious spectrum licensing probe, has met anti-corruption investigators in the latest twist in a scandal that is unsettling investors.

A spokesman for the majority owner of Reliance Communications, India’s second-biggest telecoms group by subscribers, said Mr Ambani attended the police’s Central Bureau of Investigation headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday “to clarify ongoing issues, relating to telecom matters for the years 2001 to 2010”.

The agency, which has summoned executives from several companies in the sector as part of its investigations, issued no summons to Mr Ambani, the spokesman said.

The CBI could not be reached for comment, but his meeting with its investigators was the first by any of the tycoons who dominate the scandal-prone sector in connection with the inquiry.

The probe concerns the allocation of scores of second generation (2G) mobile network licences in 2008 at what the national auditor subsequently described as “throwaway prices”. The auditor said the undervaluation cost the exchequer up to $39bn in lost revenue, a figure disputed by the government.

The auditor claimed that RCom had violated licensing regulations in 2008 by holding a larger-than-permitted stake in Swan Telecom, a smaller operator that was also applying for a licence.

Feb 17, 2011
A. Raja
HT was drawn into the drama surrounding A. Raja’s judicial custody:

Former telecom minister Andimuthu Raja (47), remanded to judicial custody by a city court in the 2G Spectrum and licences allocation scam, will share a 15feetX10feet room with suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer RK Sharma for the next two weeks. Raja is lodged in a VIP ward in Tihar Jail’s sub-jail number 1, comprising 35 inmates in five rooms.

Sharma, Raja’s roommate, was convicted by a fast track court in 2008 for the murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar in 1999. The room has an attached bathroom.

In the adjacent rooms at the VIP ward, Raja’s neighbours include suspended Indian Administrative Service officer Ravi Inder Singh and suspended assistant commissioner of police SS Rathi. While Singh was chargesheeted by the Delhi Police for allegedly passing sensitive information of the ministry of home affairs to unauthorized persons, Rathi was convicted in 2007 for killing two in Connaught Place.

Among Raja’s neighbours is convicted Pakistani national Mohammed Aarif alias Ashfaq, an alleged LeT operative, convicted in Red Fort attack.

This is drama. Mr. Raja has not been convicted. He is in judicial custody during interrogation. Why is he in Tihar jail? In some future time when the case collapses, the government can still claim that they sent Raja to jail.

Prashant Ruia
HT reported elsewhere on the questioning of Anil Ambani and Prashant Ruia (of Essar) by the CBI:

Anil Ambani, chairman of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), is now a suspect in the 2G scam, CBI sources have told HT. The investigators are not satisfied with his responses during the questioning session in the CBI headquarters here on Wednesday. An ADAG spokesperson, however, refused to reply to HT’s queries on the issue.

As part of the CBI plan to question the bosses of all the companies that got UAS licences during former telecom minister A Raja’s regime, the agency called Prashant Ruia, CEO and MD of Essar group, on Thursday.

Ruia was asked about the alleged role of his group in Loop Telecom that got licences in 21 circles in January 2008. Loop CEO Sandip Basu was already questioned in this regard.

Feb 18, 2011
Shahid Usman Balwa
TOI reported that Shahid Balwa was also remanded to judicial custody:

Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, arrested for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam along with former telecom minister A Raja, was on Friday sent to Tihar Jail after a Delhi court remanded him in judicial custody.

Special CBI Judge O P Saini remanded Balwa in judicial custody a day after Raja was sent to Tihar Jail till March 3.

The Dynamix Balwas (DB) group managing director was produced in court following expiry of his four-day CBI custody. The court took into account CBI counsel Akhilesh’s submission that he is no longer required for interrogation but he may be remanded in judicial custody as the probe into the case is not yet complete.

Again, no conviction, just a remand to custody to facilitate the investigation.

Feb 19, 2011

India Today reported that Sadiq Batcha, aide to A. Raja was summoned:

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has summoned a key aide of former telecom minister A. Raja, Sadiq Batcha, for questioning in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Batcha, who is the promoter of Greenhouse, a company considered to be a front company of Raja, will appear before the probe agency on February 23.

Livemint also reported follow up investigations of the relationship between Swan Telecom and Kalaignar TV:

As the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted searches at Kalaignar TV Pvt. Ltd in Chennai on Friday as part of investigations into alleged wrongdoing in the allocation of second-generation (2G) telecom spectrum, another phone company’s links to the television house came under scrutiny.

CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have begun examining the transfer of Rs.100 crore from STel Pvt. Ltd, which got spectrum during former telecom minister A. Raja’s tenure. They allege that the money eventually went to Kalaignar TV, owned by persons close to the leadership of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a key ally of the Congress party in the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre. Raja is a member of the DMK, led by Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi.

The investigative agency is already pursuing links between Kalaignar TV and Swan Telecom, which got spectrum in 2008.

Highly placed CBI and ED officials allege STel’s money was transferred in late 2007 to Sripoorna Holdings Pvt. Ltd, from where it went to Kalaignar TV. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Feb 21, 2011

The CBI does not work on Sundays, it seems. However, on Monday it was hard at work, trying to make an impact on the coming parliamentary session, as TOI reported:

The Dhoots of Videocon were the latest in a line of corporate biggies questioned by CBI over the 2G spectrum scam. Venugopal and his brother Rajkumar Dhoot were posed questions on Monday about the funding and transactions of Datacom Services (now Videocon), a 2G licence winner.

CBI is questioning all private telecom operators on a daily basis. Senior officers in the agency said they would examine all the beneficiaries by March 1 and there could be a few arrests as they have found links of kickbacks paid to former telecom minister A Raja.

CNN-IBN claimed a scoop:

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is now probing suspected links between Loop Telecom and RCom with 12 Mauritius-based companies.

A copy of the CBI investigation done so far in the 2G scam accessed by CNN-IBN shows that shareholding patterns of Loop Telecom and Reliance Communications are under scanner. The Anil Ambani group on Monday reacted saying, “Neither RCom nor any other ADA company/individual has any interest directly or indirectly with any company in Mauritius.”

CBI has sent Letter Rogatory to Mauritius to get find out who are the real owners of these 12 companies.

Feb 22, 2011

IE reports what was expected for the last couple of weeks, the announcement of a JPC by the prime minister:

Bowing to the tremendous pressure kept up by a united Opposition, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced the government’s decision to set up a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum scam, saying the country could “ill afford” the disruption of the crucial Budget session of Parliament.

Making the announcement in Lok Sabha as soon as it met for the first working day of the session, Singh said a formal motion for the constitution of the Joint Parliamentary Committee would be moved soon.

The full story is being documented here.

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