The Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that property worth about Rs. 2,000 crore each of five companies involved in the 2G spectrum allocation scam would be attached.
Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI and the ED, told a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly, that show-cause notices had been issued to two of them and the process in respect of other companies would be completed in two months.
Mr. Venugopal, who gave this information in a status report submitted by the ED in a sealed cover, however, did not divulge the names of the companies involved. He said these proceedings were being initiated under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). The ED was collecting details of their property as many of the companies kept benami property.
The ED said investigation was on regarding the involvement of five foreign companies registered in British Virgin Islands. The money trail relating to the 2G spectrum allocation transactions were traced to various countries and their links to foreign bank accounts established.
Mr. Venugopal then submitted the status report of the CBI for the period March 29 to April 25 and read out portions of the second charge sheet and the investigation being conducted on various aspects.
When Justice Singhvi wanted to know whether the probe pertaining to the period between 2001 and 2007 was being covered, counsel said some more time was required for completing the probe. Reading the excerpts of the CBI's status report, Mr. Venugopal told the court that during investigation it became clear that rules were circumvented and huge amount of money, by way of bribery, exchanged in the allocation of 2G spectrum.
Top officials of telecom companies, including their managing directors and shareholders, were directly involved in bribery. For the first time in the country, the CBI officials were facing a scam of this magnitude, he said.
Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), referred to the two charge sheets filed and found fault with the CBI for not catching the ‘big fish' who were the real beneficiaries. Pointing out that three Reliance Telecom officials had been arrested, he said the CBI was trying to shield Chairman Anil Ambani, the real beneficiary.
The CPIL, in a fresh application, blamed the CBI for not probing the link between Tata Teleservices and former Telecom Minister A. Raja's party, the DMK. The first charge sheet “goes on for several pages as to how Tata Teleservices, which got GSM spectrum in 20 circles, was a major beneficiary of the policies followed by accused Mr. Raja.”
The application said that while the CBI might be following the case of Loop Telecom, which made huge benefits, the investigation had gone cold over the involvement of Prashant Ruia and his family members who, through a complex web of transactions, set up Loop Telecom to defraud and cheat the government for award of 2G spectrum and licences.
Justice Singhvi told counsel: “We have gone through the progress of the investigation and officers of the CBI and the ED have done a commendable job despite several constraints relating to resource, manpower and time constraint.” The Bench said it would take up this application for hearing on May 3.