The CBI today accused former Telecom Minister A Raja of causing a loss of Rs 22,000 crore to the exchequer by favouring some telecom firms in awarding 2G spectrum licences and demanded his custody for five days,which a city court granted.
Raja,former Telecom Secretary Siddartha Behura and Raja’s former Personal Secretary R K Chandolia,were produced before Special CBI Judge O P Saini a day after they were arrested in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
Wearing a grey safari suit,the 47-year-old DMK MP appeared cool and composed and greeted the judge with folded hands.
His counsel Ramesh Gupta sought time for a private conversation with Raja,which the judge allowed for ten minutes.
Seeking their custody,CBI counsel Akhilesh argued that Raja had caused a loss of Rs 22,000 crores to the public exchequer by favouring some telecom firms in granting 2G spectrum licences.
He said due to Raja,at least two telecom firms,including Swan Telecom and Unitech,were benefitted to the tune of several hundred crores of rupees by selling their stakes to various other global firms shortly after getting licences.
The CBI said the former minister’s custody was essential for further questioning because he had been evasive in replying to their queries during his interrogation earlier at the agency’s headquarters.
This is for the first time that the CBI is directly accusing Raja of complicity in the 2G scam after it had filed an FIR against unknown officials and private persons and companies on October 21,2009.
Though the agency has pegged the loss at Rs 22,000 crore based on the calculations made by the CVC,the CAG had in its report projected a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
Raja’s counsel Ramesh Gupta strongly opposed the CBI plea saying his client was innocent and all decisions with regard to granting of 2G spectrum licences had the approval of the Union Cabinet and various statutory panels.
“Accordingly,Raja was not solely responsible in the alleged scam,” Gupta contended.
He said,”All documents had been seized by the CBI in 2009 and moreover Raja had already been interrogated at the agency’s headquarters several times in the past.”
The CBI should not be awarded Raja’s custody just for the sake of interrogation,Gupta said,adding,”There has to be a justification for the same.”
However,at the end of the arguments,the judge gave the CBI the custody of Raja and the two others for five days.
Raja and his ex-associates were arrested by the CBI on Wednesday for allegedly not following the right procedures in the grant of 2G licences and spectrum to some telecom companies,thereby causing the national exchequer losses running into thousands of crores.
According to the CBI,Raja and his associates abused their official position to manipulate the tendering process by advancing cut-off dates,asking licencees to deposit fees within a week,and introducing an arbitrary first-come-first-served principle that benefited some firms.
The 47-year-old five-time MP was arrested after daylong questioning at the CBI headquarters in New Delhi.
Raja is the first former minister to be arrested for corruption by the government of which he was part. The other Telecom Minister who suffered a similar fate,Sukh Ram,was arrested in 1996 after the United Front government came to power.
Chandolia had been on the radar of the CBI and Enforcement Directorate since the scam broke in 2009. Behura was among those raided by the CBI in connection with the scam last year. More arrests were likely after the CBI submits an interim status report to the Supreme Court,sources said.
Top DMK sources said party president and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi,who returned to Chennai from Delhi after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi last night,knew what was going to happen on Wednesday.
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