Union Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran resigned from the government after being named by CBI in the 2G scam. He handed over his resignation to the prime minister on 7 July, around 1:30 pm. Earlier that day he attended his last cabinet meeting and was seen leaving early. On 6 July in the Supreme Court, the CBI had confirmed the findings of Ashish Khetan and Raman Kirpal’s storyHello? Who will bell this cat, 04 June 2011, exposing the role of former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran in the 2G scam. The premier investigating agency informed the apex court that its preliminary inquiry shows that Maran deliberately sat on Aircel’s application for telecom license. He used the opportunity to coerce Aircel founder Shivasankaran into selling his 74 percent stake to Malaysian billionaire T Anand Krishnan’s Maxis Communication.
The 71-page fresh status report repeated what the Tehelka investigation in June had exposed: telecom license was awarded to Aircel within six months of being taken over by Krishnan’s company in December 2006. Shivasankaran had earlier testified to the CBI on the same. Former telecom secretary Nripendra Misra also corroborated Shivasankaran’s allegations. Krishnan is known to be close to Maran and his brother Kalanidhi and is an investor in their company. While DMK has maintained a steady silence, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa demanded Maran’s immediate dismissal from the Union Cabinet. “CBI is doing what the nation expects them to do. It was long overdue. I am happy they have done it at last. I think there is no use expecting Maran to step down. It’s high time that the Prime Minister drops him from the Union Council of Ministers,” she said. The BJP has also demanded his resignation. “Resignation of Maran has to happen. His position has certainly become untenable,” said party spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman.
The CBI also told the Supreme Court that there is prima facie evidence to suggest that Loop Telecom acted as a front company for Essar as reported in Brijesh Pandey’s story — Essar’s Ruia caught in a loop as sleuths dig up new evidence on 5 March 2011. It pointed out that the Essar CEO had ensured that Loop gets a State Bank of India loan and the company offered corporate guarantee for the same. While CBI has assured the SC that it will complete probing the Loop-Essar money trail in eight weeks, it did point out that close associates of Essar financed Loop’s application for Unified Access Service Licence (UASL). CBI has also discovered that two days before the grant of UAS license, Essar reduced its stake in Loop to 2.15 percent. Clause 8 of the telecom guidelines forbid a single company to own 10 percent or more in two telecom service providers in a single circle. The Essar group already owns 33 percent in Vodafone Essar which operates in all 22 circles. SC has asked the CBI to look into the role of the bank which offered loan to Loop.
Another major strand of the 2G scam is the role of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communication (RCom) and Swan Telecom. Swan is accused of being the front for Rcom. Now the CBI has told the Supreme Court it has found that RCom sold Swan Telecom shares worth $100 million for just $4 million. This is exactly what Ashish Khetan’sThe Footprint ADAG Left Behind, 26 February 2011, had exposed. On 5 December 2007, Reliance Telecom sold its 9.8 percent stake to Mauritius-based Delphi Investments for just Rs 35 crore. It had paid a phenomenal 99,900 percent premium just a few months ago while buying preference shares in the company. When the company was all set to get 2G spectrum, the 9.8 percent paid-up equity was sold for a song. The market valuation of the stake was around Rs 800 crore. The story also had shown how Ambani created Swan Telecom through a real estate company, DB Realtors, and invested over Rs 1,000 crore in it. Top officials of Swan and Reliance are already behind bars.
The CBI will complete the probe into all irregularities in the spectrum allocation during 2001-08 by 30 September. The next hearing is on 11 July 2011.
This story has also appeared in TEHELKA magazine, Vol 8, Issue 28, Dated 16 July, 2011