‘ED probes Bharti for money laundering’

MoS for finance SS Palanimanickam tells Rajya Sabha that firm is being probed under PMLA & FEMA

Written by ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Published: May 16, 2012 1:07 am

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating the country’s largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering and Foreign Exchange Management Act,minister of state for finance SS Palanimanickam told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

The minister was answering a question raised by member of Parliament Jai Prakash Narayan Singh.

The MP had also asked whether any top Bharti official had been interrogated for Fema violations. The minister,however,did not reveal any more details,saying it would not be in the interest of ongoing investigations.

Following the statement,Bharti shares fell as much as 5.1 per cent,before recovering to close 1.28 per cent down at Rs 303.50.

The company denied any wrongdoing: “Bharti Airtel maintains the highest standards of corporate governance and regulatory compliance and has always complied with norms. We have provided all relevant details asked for by the authorities in this matter and will be happy to cooperate further,should the need arise,” a company spokesperson said.

Industry sources said the ED had written to Bharti in November,asking it to submit all relevant records,bank statements and statutory reports. It is understood that the probe is somewhat related to the searches by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) at its offices last year in connection with the grant of spectrum beyond 6.6 MHz in 2002-03 during the tenure of Pramod Mahajan,telecom minister in the NDA Cabinet.

The probe against Bharti comes at a time when the spectrum scam trial is going on at the CBI court. Bharti does not figure in that scam.

Further,the Supreme Court on February 2 had ordered the cancellation of 122 licences granted by former telecom minister A Raja in 2008.

The court has asked the government to conduct auctions and grant fresh licences by August 31.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has already submitted its recommendations on the matter,which the industry has opposed thanks to high reserve prices Rs 18,110 crore and other issues. The government now has to finalise its views on it.

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