The CBI has registered a case of cheating, criminal conspiracy and corruption against former officials of ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix in connection with an alleged scam where an agreement was signed with Devas Multimedia to launch two satellites for the firm to access S-band spectrum.
Following the registration of the case, the CBI on Wednesday conducted searches at the Bangalore home of former executive director of Antrix Corporation K Sridharmurthi, the official signatory on the 2005 agreement with Devas, as well the office of the firm, started by a group of former top executives from ISRO and other satellite communication companies. When the deal was signed, the department of space portfolio was held by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh.
It is alleged that the agreement caused a wrongful gain of Rs 578 crore to Devas and its owners.
The CBI case has been registered against Sridharmurthi, R Vishwanathan and M G Chandrasekhar, both of Forge Advisors LLC, USA and M/s Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd, Bangalore, and other unknown officials of Antrix Corporation.
“It is alleged that then executive director of Antrix Corporation Ltd in conspiracy with other unknown officials of Antrix Corporation Limited /ISRO/Department of Space and the Bangalore based company cheated the Government of India and caused favours to said company,” the CBI said in an official note following the registration of the case.
Sridharmurthi and former chairman of the ISRO G Madhavan Nair had been ex-communicated from all government roles in 2012 by the previous UPA government for their alleged role in pushing the deal.
The Antrix officials allegedly gave the rights for delivery of video, multimedia and information services to mobile receivers in vehicle and mobile phones via S-band through GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A satellites and terrestrial systems in India to Devas, despite the company being ineligible.
The controversial agreement was signed on January 28, 2005, for the lease of 10 S-band transponders for these services. Immediately after the agreement, there was a change in the Board of Directors of Devas, with Vishwanathan and Chandrasekhar, through Forge Advisors USA, taking over charge and control of Devas. They were appointed directors of Devas on June 25, 2005.
The Devas deal had been annulled in February 2011 following the allegations of irregularities.
“This was against the spirit of the Shankara Committee that recommended for the agreement to be executed with an Indian company. This change in nature of Devas was never checked and verified by officials of Antrix,” a CBI source said. Chandrasekhar held maximum shares in Devas till 2008-09.
The CBI following registration of its case has stated that officials of Antrix and ISRO suppressed facts of the deal from the union cabinet for clearances and that suspicious changes were carried out in the Devas board
that were ignored by Antrix officials.