Through such a move the CBI only wants to embarrass Ambani couple: Defense

Even as a special leave petition has been filed in the Supreme Court, challenging a special court order summoning Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) chairman Anil Ambani and his wife Tina as witnesses in the 2G spectrum case, the prosecution’s move has left many wondering as to what the probing agency’s intention might be.

The special court a few days ago allowed a plea by the Central Bureau of Investigation that the examination of Mr. Anil Ambani and his wife was essential for a just decision in the 2G case. The agency had earlier not cited the couple and 11 others, who have also been summoned, as prosecution witnesses in the charge sheet. “We sought their summoning as witnesses as several crucial questions pertaining to incorporation of shell companies and certain investments/divestments made by them remained unanswered despite the examination of the accused ADAG officials,” said a CBI official. Nearly 130 witnesses have so far been examined during the ongoing trial.

The CBI submitted that Mr. Anil and his wife, being in responsible positions in the organisation, were supposed to know the facts and would depose about the incorporation of these companies. The agency said as Mr. Ambani was the head of Reliance ADAG, his testimony was required to depose as to who was responsible for incorporation of the shell companies, including Swan Telecom Limited; to know about the inter-locking equity structures; the corporate structuring and investments/divestments of Swan Telecom and also about other companies.

The prosecution submitted that Ms. Ambani, who occupied an important position in Reliance ADAG, was authorised to transact on behalf of Tiger Traders and Swan Telecom without any limit on value and was also a director and chairman of multiple board meetings of ADAE Ventures and AAA Consultancy Services, which have had multiple transactions with Tiger Traders. And hence, it said, her testimony was also required to know who was responsible for incorporation of shell companies.

However, countering the prosecution, the defence counsel said through such a move the CBI only wanted to embarrass Mr. Anil and his wife. “They have nothing to do with the day-to-day functioning of the companies… the witnesses have already been examined on the relevant points and if the prosecution failed to get certain documents proved, it is their fault and the party in fault cannot take advantage of its own mistakes,” counsel said, adding that Mr. Ambani’s statement had been recorded under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code, but was deliberately not placed on record.

“This [CBI plea for the summoning of the Ambani couple as witnesses] is an exercise in futility. He [Mr. Ambani] can refuse to answer the prosecution…I have never come across a case where the chairman of a company whose officials are accused is made a witness. This shows that the CBI is frustrated,” said senior lawyer K.T.S. Tulsi.

When asked whether anyone could be made a fresh accused during an ongoing trial, Mr. Tulsi said as per law the trial in such a scenario would have to start from the beginning.

Mr. Ambani’s name had cropped up in the 2G spectrum scam case trial in February 2012 with a prosecution witness deposing in court that the ADAG chairman participated in a crucial April 29, 2007, board meeting of accused company, Reliance Telecom Limited, where an investment of Rs. 992 crore in Swan Telecom by RTL was dubbed a “long-term strategic investment.”