Having submitted the status report of its ongoing probe into 2G spectrum allocation scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will question Dayanidhi Maran who resigned as Union Textiles Minister on Thursday.
In the status report, the CBI told the Supreme Court that prima facie there was material to suggest that Mr. Maran, who was Telecom Minister during 2004-07, had forced Aircel to sell its shares to Malaysian telecom company Maxis.
“There are allegations levelled by C. Sivasankaran, [former] promoter of Aircel, against Mr. Maran, and prima facie they look serious. We have to ask Mr. Maran about these allegations. We will also verify the allegations made by Mr. Sivasankaran,” highly placed CBI sources said here.
The sources said the CBI would also take into account Mr. Maran's statements denying allegations of “arm twisting” Aircel. It would take about three weeks for the verification to be completed and scrutiny of documents.
A preliminary enquiry (PE) on the issue of spectrum allocation during 2001-07, which covers tenures of three telecom ministers - Pramod Mahajan, Arun Shourie and Dayanidhi Maran - is already under investigation by the CBI and the Supreme Court has given more time to the agency to complete it.
The CBI is said to be looking into financial transactions of Sun TV, owned by the Maran family, and Malaysia-based Maxis, which acquired stakes in Aircel. The sources said if anything substantial was found, the PE would be converted into a full-fledged first information report (FIR).
Nothing against Shourie
Mr. Shourie, who held the charge between 2003 and 2004, was questioned by the CBI on February 25, and he submitted a 50-page report to the agency. The sources said that Mr. Shourie's four-page statement was recorded on July 1. However, the agency so far has not found anything against him, the sources said.
The PE, registered on the directions of the Supreme Court, will try to ascertain if there were any violations of the telecom policy or ulterior motives involved in the grant of licences during that period.
The probe involves investigations abroad and the CBI received information from Mauritius that five companies – Black Lion Ltd., Capital Global Ltd., Deccan Asian Infrastructure, Aidetel Holding and Inditel Holding – were not the companies owned by the Ruias of Essar group, but belonged to the Khaitan family.
A four-member team — two each from the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) — had visited Mauritius as part of its efforts to gather information about the antecedents of Delphi Investment, which had purchased Reliance Communications' 9.9% stake in Swan Telecom as also to track the source of funding of Loop Telecom.
The ED, on the trail of uncovering the money laundering, had sent its team to Cyprus, Singapore and the U.K. Delphi Investment was a subsidiary of another firm – Mavi Investment Fund, incorporated in Mauritius as a private company.
With Delphi's origins stated to be in Switzerland and Mavi's links in the British Virgin Islands, the CBI is all set to send a Letter Rogatory (LR) to Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands to seek assistance in the probe. “Such multi-layering of companies is a normal phenomenon, but we are trying to get to the root of it and we want to know who owns it,” the sources said.
In many cases, the sources said, such companies turn out to be trust-managed.
The LR, sent by the CBI, said that in December 2007 — after obtaining the dual technology licence —Reliance Communications sold its entire equity of 1.07 crore shares (9.9%) held by its subsidiary Reliance Telecom in Swan to Delphi Investment, Port Louis, Mauritius.
The CBI is likely to look into the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) statement which said that Loop Telecom was not an associate company of Essar as Ruias held only 2.15 per cent stake in it as on September 3, 2007, when it applied for a Unified Access Service (UAS) licence.
The Loop Telecom is alleged to be the front company of Essar.