“Swan Telecom, Unitech Wireless alone caused a loss of Rs. 7,105 crore”
The voluminous charge sheet in the 2G spectrum scam case, filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in a special court here on Saturday, alleged that in furtherance of a conspiracy, Dynamix Realty, a partnership firm of DB Realty Limited and other DB Group companies, paid Rs. 200 crore to Kalaignar TV Private Limited during December 2008- August 2009, following a circuitous route through Kusegaon Fruits Vegetable Pvt. Ltd, a DB Group company, and Cineyug Films Pvt. Ltd in which the DB Group holds 49 per cent equity.
“However, the chain of this and other suspected quid pro quo (related to Green House Promoters Pvt. Ltd) needs to be consolidated and further evidence needs to be collected to prove the allegations,” the charge sheet said. Informing the court that the investigation into these transactions, including custodial interrogation of the accused, was in progress, the CBI said a supplementary police report would be filed as soon as possible.
Though the charge sheet has broadly gone with the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor-General's report, it has put the estimated loss to the government on a pro rata basis for all 122 Unified Access Services (UAS) licences issued in 2008 at more than Rs.22,000 crore. The CAG report estimated the loss at Rs.1.76 lakh crore. Even CBI Director A.P. Singh, who deposed before the Murli Manohar Joshi-led Public Accounts Committee of Parliament recently, indicated that the loss could be about Rs.20,000 crore. The loss allegedly caused by Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless alone to the government was to the tune of Rs.7,105 crore.
The charge sheet noted that though the foreign direct investment limit was raised from 49 to 74 per cent in December 2005, there was no lock-in period or restriction imposed on the sale of equity or issue of additional equity. “As a result, M/s Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd., which paid the Department of Telecom (DoT) Rs. 1,537 crore for the UAS licences for 13 circles, offloaded its 45 per cent equity to M/s Etisalat of the UAE for Rs. 4,200 crore. Similarly, M/s Unitech Wireless (a group of eight companies), which paid the DoT Rs.1,658 crore for UAS licences of all 22 circles, offloaded its 60 per cent equity to M/s Telenor of Norway for Rs. 6,100 crore. These stakes were sold by the said companies even before the rollout of services by them. The estimated loss to the government by grant of licences to these two companies alone comes to Rs.7,105 crore.”
The CBI investigation revealed offences pertaining to five main issues — the cut-off date, violations of the first come, first served policy, dual technology approvals and spectrum allocation, eligibility of companies, and cheating the government exchequer by non-revision of the entry fee.
The charge sheet has also named three senior officials of Reliance ADA Group — group managing director Gautam Doshi and senior vice-presidents Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara — accused for offences punishable under Section 109 read with 420 of the Indian Penal Code. The three officials, on receipt of approval of allocation of dual technology spectrum to Reliance Communications Ltd., knowingly did not withdraw their fraudulent application for the UAS licence and, in conspiracy with the accused Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, transferred the management and control of Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd. to them. They intentionally aided and facilitated Mr. Balwa and Mr. Goenka to get the UAS licence for Swan Telecom, despite full knowledge of the fact that the company was ineligible on the date of application as it was in violation of Clause 8 of the UASL guidelines of December 14, 2005.
The charge sheet said the accused, Siddhartha Behura and R.K.Chandolia, earlier worked with A. Raja when he was Minister for Environment and Forests and were acquainted with each other. The investigation also revealed that Mr. Raja was already familiar with the accused, Shahid Balwa, Vinod Goenka and Sanjay Chandra, in context of clearances of the Environment and Forests Ministry for various real estate projects of their companies — DB Realty Ltd. and Unitech Ltd. respectively.
“In pursuance of conspiracy and for ensuring better prospects for his favoured companies, he [Mr. Raja] cut it [the cut-off date] short and decided the cut-off date to be October 1, 2007. A press release was issued to this effect on September 24, 2007, which appeared in newspapers on September 25, 2007. The investigation has revealed that even though this cut-off date of October 1, 2007 had been announced, A. Raja, in conspiracy with other accused persons, had already taken a view to keep the cut-off date as September 25, 2007, as earlier conveyed to the Access Services Cell officer by Mr. Chandolia.''
The charge sheet alleged that Mr. Raja “knowingly misrepresented the facts and misled the Prime Minister while mentioning that the department was not deviating from the existing procedure in as much as the overriding principle of introducing new cellular operators subject to the availability of sufficient spectrum was flouted.” He also suppressed the design he already had in mind regarding the manner in which he, in conspiracy with other co-accused person, and for benefiting his favoured companies, intended to allocate the licences, which was clearly indicated in various options mentioned in the October 26, 2007 letter written to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
The probe disclosed that Mr. Raja, in conspiracy with Mr. Chandolia, decided the cut-off date for consideration of applications to be those received up to September 25, 2007 to wrongly benefit the accused, Sanjay Chandra, Managing Director, Unitech Ltd., Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt. Ltd., the accused, Shahid Balwa, and the accused, Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd. into consideration zone for all circles applied for despite the inadequate availability of spectrum in many circles, including Delhi (one of the most lucrative) for the companies standing in queue ahead of these firms.
The investigation revealed that both Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu), which were unduly favoured, were ineligible as on the date of application.
The charge sheet said Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd was allowed to get the Letter of Intent and the UAS licence and spectrum, despite there being sufficient material to raise doubt about its eligibility for licence. “It is worthwhile to mention that for being ineligible on the date of application, many other applicants were denied Letters of Intent and thus no licences could be issued to those companies which were ineligible on the date of application.”
On Unitech Ltd., which had filed applications for UAS licences in all 22 circles, the investigation disclosed that the Unitech group companies, having object clauses of realty, did not even have their object clauses under Memorandum and Articles of Association amended before applying to enter the telecom business.
The Unitech group companies “fraudulently concealed critical information” to avoid rejection. The investigation revealed that the Unitech group companies acquired eligibility after the grant of the UAS licences.