By Raman Kirpal
WHENEVER NEWS about the 2G spectrum scam erupts, the Congress is quick to react that its relationship with the DMK is not under strain. The DMK, on its part, is buying time till the CBI files its first chargesheet, in the hope that it will not name anybody from the DMK other than former telecom minister A Raja. But the CBI is determined to chargesheet members of the DMK’s first family — M Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi and second wife Dayalu Ammal. They are not to be charged with ‘criminal conspiracy’ but with ‘taking gratification for exercise of personal influence with public servant’ under Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
If proven guilty, Kanimozhi and Dayalu will face punishment ranging from six months to five years. According to CBI sources, their crime is that they are shareholders and directors of Kalaignar TV, which took Rs. 200 crore from DB Realty promoter Shahid Balwa. This was allegedly Raja’s kickbacks for the 2G spectrum allocation.
To top it all, Kanimozhi did not mention her stakes in Kalaignar TV in her disclosure of assets to the Election Commission on 1 June 2007. Her affidavit only mentions that she has Rs. 6.40 crore in fixed deposits, Rs. 16.52 lakh and Rs. 1.96 lakh in two savings bank accounts, shares worth Rs. 3.50 lakh in West Gate Logistics, a Toyota Camry, gold and diamonds worth Rs. 3.61 lakh, a commercial building worth Rs. 1.61 crore at Anna Salai and a farmhouse worth Rs. 10 lakh at Pattukottai.
Where she slipped was on not declaring her stake in Kalaignar TV. Just five days before filing the disclosures, Kanimozhi and Dayalu had signed a deal with the channel. The shareholding papers reveal that Dayalu owns 60 percent, Kanimozhi holds 20 percent and CEO Sharad Kumar the rest. In essence, DMK’s first family seems to own Kalaignar TV. The CBI has already quizzed Kumar.
Kanimozhi did not mention her stakes in Kalaignar TV in her disclosure of assets to the EC in 2007
Thus the chargesheet, the CBI sources say, will feature Raja, Balwa, Kanimozhi, Dayalu, directors of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group and Unitech. The CBI is not yet sure of Sharad Kumar, but he too could be caught in the web of criminal conspiracy. Raja and Balwa are likely to be charged with criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct under Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, Kanimozhi and Dayalu may be spared the charges of criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct.
Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act spells out punishment for any private individual who uses personal influence with a public servant to get gratification. According to CBI sources, no political pressure will work in this case because the entire transaction of Rs 200 crore, which implicates Raja, also involves Kanimozhi and Dayalu. So the logic says if Raja is to be accused, you will also have to accuse Kanimozhi and Dayalu, maybe with minor charges, say CBI officials.
ACCORDING TO the CBI FIR, Raja has caused a loss of approximately Rs 22,000 crore to the exchequer from the 2G spectrum deal. The CBI director, in his recent deposition before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) had reportedly said that the loss may be more than Rs 40,000 crore, as the agency is still assessing the case.
The conspiracy being discussed is that Raja favoured Swan Telecom in allocation of 2G spectrum. Anil Ambani’s company originally formed Swan Telecom to get the GSM spectrum. But when Reliance Telecom got the same spectrum through dual technology, it sold off its stakes. After a few bouts of exchanges and selling of shares, Balwa owns half the stakes along with Dubai-based Etisalat. Ambani’s directors sold off Reliance’s stakes to Balwa’s company, which apparently routed Rs. 200 crore to Kalaignar TV.
Reliance Telecom also sold off 9.9 percent stakes in Swan to Delphi Investment, located in Les Cascades Building, Edith Cavell Street, Port Louis, Mauritius. Who owns this company? The CBI has sent letter rogatory (LR) to find this out. Perhaps this is the only surprising element left in the 2G spectrum scam involving Raja and Swan. The CBI is expecting a reply to the LR, but it is set to file the first chargesheet by 31 March.
If proven guilty, Kanimozhi and Dayalu will face punishment ranging from six months to five years
Elaborating the criminal conspiracy further, CBI officials say during Raja’s tenure, there were no competitive bids in the award of 2G spectrum bandwidth. Instead, the telecom ministry inserted ‘an arbitrary condition’ saying that whosoever deposits the fee first would be the first to get licence. The ministry conveniently leaked out the information only to a few applicants, including Swan and Unitech, and thus favoured them. “Since some of the applicants who had this information were ready with the amount, they were able to deposit the fee earlier than others,” say CBI officials.
The CBI finds that Swan paid Rs. 1,537 crore for 13 circles and Unitech paid Rs. 1,658 crore for 22 circles. These two companies had not even rolled out 2G spectrum services when Swan offloaded 45 percent of its share in the 2G licence to Etisalat for Rs. 4,200 crore. And Unitech off-loaded 60 percent of its share in the licence to Telenor for Rs. 6,100 crore.
(With inputs from Jeemon Jacob)