Says Ambani was present at crucial meeting on investment in Swan
Anil Ambani's name has cropped up in the 2G spectrum scam case trial with a prosecution witness deposing in court that the Reliance ADA Group 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”.
[Swan Telecom had applied for UAS licences on March 2, 2007. While chargesheeting senior Reliance officials Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, the Central Bureau of Investigation alleged that they “structured/created net worth of a company, Swan Telecom, out of funds arranged from Reliance Telecom or its associates for applying to the Telecom Department for UAS licences in 13 circles where Reliance Telecom had no GSM spectrum”. This was done in a manner that Swan Telecom's association with Reliance “may not be detected” and also to ensure that the DoT did not reject its application.]
Further, witness Sateesh Seth, a consultant with RADAG, testified that Mr. Ambani was “perhaps” present at the RTL board meeting on October 30, 2007, but was “not very sure” of his participation at a meeting on January 30, 2008, where the board was informed of the disinvestment of RTL shares in Swan Telecom.
However, later during cross-examination, Mr. Seth confirmed that he had told the CBI investigating officer that Mr. Ambani was present during the October 30, 2007, and January 30, 2008, board meetings.
Mr. Seth said he attended all the three meetings held on April 29, 2007, October 30, 2007, and January 30, 2008.
On the investment decision, Mr. Seth said: “I have also been shown a certified true copy of the extract of the minutes of the meeting held on April 29, 2007. It was attended by S. P. Shukla, Gautam Doshi and Anil Ambani. At this meeting, the board noted that investment in 99.2 lakh [of] eight per cent non-cumulative redeemable preference shares (NCRPS) of Re.1 each at a premium of Rs.999 per preference share aggregating to Rs.992 crore of Swan Telecom (P) Limited was in the nature of long-term strategic investment.”
On disinvestment, the witness said: “I have also been shown minutes of the meeting held on October 30, 2007. This meeting was also attended by S. P. Shukla, Gautam Doshi and, perhaps by Anil Ambani…the board was informed of the disinvestment of 99.22 lakh [of] eight per cent NCRPS of Re.1 each of Swan Telecom.”
On the decision to disinvest again, brought to the board's notice on January 30, 2008, Mr. Seth said: “I have also been shown the minutes. This meeting was also attended by S. P. Shukla and Gautam Doshi. I am not very sure if Anil Ambani attended the meeting or not…The board was informed of disinvestment of 10,791,000 equity shares of Rs.10 each of Swan Telecom.”
But Mr. Seth resiled from his statement to the CBI investigating officer that Reliance ADA Group managing director Gautam Doshi took the decision to disinvest equity shares held by RTL in Swan Telecom. While he had told the CBI during its investigation that “the decisions regarding investment /disinvestment of equity shares” and the “price of investment/disinvestment including premium were also decided” by Mr. Doshi, on Tuesday he told the court that the disinvestment decision “must have been” taken by a “business team” in which Mr. Doshi was not a member.
However, Mr. Seth said the board might “in its wisdom, advise [the business team] against taking such decision in future or advise the use of another measure in taking such decisions”.
Cross-examined by CBI prosecutor A. K. Singh, Mr. Seth said: “It is wrong to suggest that I am deposing falsely on this point to save Gautam Doshi from legal punishment. These decisions could have been taken by a series of people…It is wrong to suggest that decision regarding investment in or disinvestment from Swan Telecom was a decision of the board, as the decision was noted by the board. Merely because a particular decision is noted by the board, it does not mean it was a decision by the board.”