Investigation at a crucial stage: Special Public Prosecutor

A court here on Thursday gave the Central Bureau of Investigation five-day custody of the former Telecommunications Minister, A. Raja; his former private secretary, R.K. Chandolia; and the former Secretary in the Telecommunications Department, Siddhartha Behura.

The CBI arrested them on Wednesday for their alleged role in granting 2G spectrum and licences in violation of the guidelines.

Mr. Raja appeared composed as CBI personnel escorted him into the small courtroom that was packed to capacity with journalists. The police set up barricades all along the narrow passageway to the courtroom.

Moving the remand application, Special Public Prosecutor (CBI) Akhilesh specifically named Swan Telecom and United Wireless as two of the beneficiaries of Mr. Raja's largesse towards “certain telecom companies that caused a total loss of Rs.22,000 crore to the exchequer calculated on a pro-rata basis.”

Listing the charges against the accused, Mr. Akhilesh told Special Judge (CBI) O.P. Saini the 2G spectrum and licences were given at low rates that were fixed in 2001 and that the “first-come-first- served” policy was manipulated. Also, those who paid money first were granted licences first and some parties had prior knowledge of this change in policy.

“While Swan Telecom paid Rs.1,537 crore for 2G licences in 13 circles, they soon sold 45 per cent equity in this company to Etisalat for Rs.4,200 crore. Unitech obtained licences in 22 circles for Rs.1,658 crore and then sold 60 per cent equity in the company to Telenor for Rs.6,100 crore,” he said.

Mr. Raja was evading questions during interrogation and that the enquiry was at a crucial stage, Mr. Akhilesh said. “The said accused person is essentially required to be put under sustained custodial interrogation so that the real facts and elements of criminal conspiracy, including acts of omission and commission, can be discovered,” said the CBI's application.

Ramesh Gupta, counsel for Mr. Raja and Mr. Chandolia, told the court that the former Minister cooperated with the CBI during the agency's searches at his residence on December 8 and 15 and appeared before it for questioning on December 24 and 25, January 31 and February 2.

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