Honchos involved in the 2G scam are in jail. Raman Kirpal finds out whose turn is next
IF SWAN Telecom Director Shahid Balwa is in prison for his role in the 2G spectrum scam, can other corporate honchos involved be far behind? A Delhi court fixed that anomaly on 20 April by rejecting the bail applications of five telecom bigwigs, including Reliance officials. Sending them to judicial custody, the judge said that they should be treated with parity in the case.
The CBI had named nine persons in its first chargesheet — former telecom minister A Raja, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura, Raja’s private secretary RK Chandolia, Swan Telecom Director Balwa, another Swan Telecom Director and now Director Etisalat-DB Telecom Vinod Goenka, Unitech Managing Director Sanjay Chandra, Reliance ADAG Managing Director Gautam Doshi and Senior Vice-Presidents Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara.
The nine accused are likely to stay in jail till the CBI court tries the case in mid-May
The chargesheet establishes that each one of them played a role in the 2G conspiracy. Four accused — Raja, Behura, Chandolia and Balwa — were arrested during interrogation and are now in judicial custody. Sensing they may also be arrested, the other five accused approached the court for bail. However, the court, taking cognisance of the nature of their offence, rejected their application and sent them to jail.
All the nine accused are charged under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property). Being public servants, the roles of Raja, Behura and Chandolia became critical and they were accused of additional crimes under anti-corruption laws.
A scenario was brewing where the four arrested accused — including Raja and Balwa — had a good chance of getting bail on the ground that the other five charged under the same section are roaming free. The local court pre-empted this move and put these five too in jail. They are likely to cool their heels there until the designated CBI court puts the case on trial by mid-May.
The story in brief is that Raja gave away 2G spectrum at throwaway prices to two companies — Swan and Unitech. During investigation, the CBI discovered that Swan is a ‘dummy’ company of Reliance ADAG. Reliance Telecom pumped money into Swan, and Balwa and Goenka were its ‘front men’. Under the telecom rules, no company can have more than 10 percent shares in another telecom firm. That’s why Reliance created a new firm and kept the duo as the ‘dummy’ owners, the chargesheet says.
Reliance Telecom is the flagship company of Anil Ambani’s empire. The CBI had questioned him and he apparently told them that Doshi and other officials take the decisions and he has no role to play in the day-to-day affairs. The CBI let off Ambani and held that cross-holdings between Swan and Reliance through bogus companies and money transactions have the signatures of Doshi, Nair and Pipara.
Unitech’s story is no different. Chandra created eight shell companies in a bid to get telecom licence and spectrum. Once these companies got them, they were renamed and merged into Unitech Wireless (TN) Pvt Ltd.
And Raja, the CBI chargesheet says, knew both Balwa and Chandra since his days as Union environment minister. “Raja was familiar with Balwa, Goenka and Chandra in context of clearances to their real estate projects,” it reads.
The CBI is set to file the second chargesheet by 25 April. And it is set to chargesheet DMK’s Kanimozhi and her stepmother Dayalu Ammal. The charge is that Balwa paid Rs 200 crore out of the 2G scam money to Kalaignar TV, where Kanimozhi and Dayalu Ammal owned shares. They will be chargesheeted under the same sections.
Kanimozhi and Dayalu Ammal are likely to approach the court for anticipatory bail. But they may end up facing the same fate as the honchos.
Raman Kirpal is an Editor, Special Reports with Tehelka