CBI probing Essar's use of Loop as a front to procure 2G spectrum licences

Having questioned some top functionaries of the Essar Group, the Central Bureau of Investigation is gearing up to file a charge sheet pertaining to the company's alleged link with Loop Telecom in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

The investigating agency has been probing Essar's alleged use of Loop as a front company to gain more licenses and spectrum than was legally permissible in 2008. Former Telecom Minister A. Raja, who is lodged in Tihar Central jail here, was at the helm of affairs at the Telecom Ministry at the time of the allocation of mobile air waves.

Sources said the charge sheet was likely to be filed over the next week or ten days. In September, a top official in Essar Telecom had backed the CBI's line of probe into the Essar-Loop relationship, saying the group was controlling Loop Telecom when it applied for telecom spectrum.

The statement of Essar Telecom Business Group CFO Somasundaram Subramaniam, who has been the CEO of BPL Mobile (BMCL) which took over Loop Telecom Private Limited, was recorded before the Magistrate on September 9.

In his statement, Mr. Subramaniam had said Essar employees used to sign bank documents for Loop as well as extended corporate guarantees to secure funds during the 2G spectrum allocation.

Loop Telecom, formerly Shipping Stop Dot Com (India) Private Limited, had applied for Unified Access Licences on September 3, 2007, and was issued 21 licences. The Comptroller and Auditor General report found major deficiencies in the process of grant of licences and suppression of crucial information on the part of the company. The report said the authorised share capital was only Rs. 5.20 crore as against the requirement of Rs. 128 crore.

While the Khaitan family owns Loop, Essar is owned by the Ruias. The CBI charge sheet is likely to disturb the applecart in both the families.

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