CBI raids Raja, family and aides (Fifth Lead)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

NEW DELHI/CHENNAI - The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Wednesday recovered incriminating documents during searches at the Delhi and Tamil Nadu homes of former telecom minister A. Raja, his close relatives as well as four of his associates in connection with the 2G spectrum probe, an official said.

In a sweeping coordinated operation, the CBI also picked up Sadiqui Batcha, a Chennai realtor said to be close to Raja, after searching his house.

Searches have been conducted at 14 places so far — 12 in Delhi and two in Tamil Nadu. These have yielded recovery of incriminating documents. Searches are still going on, CBI Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Vinita Thakur told reporters here.

The CBI searched the homes of Raja’s close relatives and associates in Tamil Nadu and the office of the trust run by his family members.

Searches were conducted at the homes of Raja’s former private secretary R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, member (telecom) K. Sridhar and deputy director general, )(telecom) A.K. Srivastava.

It is learnt that CBI officials visited the Canara Bank branch in Perambalur, Raja’s native town in Tamil Nadu, and conducted enquiries. Officials of the bank in Trichy could not confirm or deny the CBI officials’ visit.

The CBI team reached Raja’s 2-A Motilal Nehru Marg residence in the national capital around 7 a.m. Raids continued through the morning in New Delhi as well as at a few places in Tamil Nadu through the day.

The CBI said it has been alleged that serious irregularities took place in the award of Unified Access Services (UAS) licence to private mobile companies.

As per information received, there was criminal conspiracy between certain officials of the department of telecommunication and private persons/companies and others in order to award licences to these companies by putting a cap on the number of applicants against the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and by awarding licences to private companies on first-come-first-serve basis on the rates of 2001 without any competitive bidding, Thakur said.

While CBI officials in Chennai initially told IANS that they had no information on the raids, a police officer in Perambalur said CBI officials raided Raja’s residence.

The AIADMK - the major opposition party in Tamil Nadu - has also demanded Raja’s arrest under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

But the CBI offensive was not hailed by the opposition.

Saying the raids were a bit late, AIADMK MP V. Maitreyan said the former minister should be arrested under the anti-corruption laws.

“I hope the CBI’s action is not an eyewash. Let us wait and see,” Maitreyan told IANS while declining to comment on the possible impact the CBI’s action would have on Tamil Nadu politics.

Other opposition leaders, including Prakash Javadekar from the Bharatiya Janata Party and Gurudas Dasgupta from the Communist Party of India, echoed the sentiment and said the searches were an “eyewash”.

Raja was forced to resign last month after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) indicted him in the spectrum allocation scam and for causing losses estimated between Rs.58,000 crore ($12.8 billion) and Rs.1.76 lakh crore ($40 billion) to the exchequer.

He is alleged to have sold spectrum licenses at rates much lower than in the market.

The 2G spectrum saga has crippled parliament since Nov 10 as the opposition refused to give up its demand for a parliamentary probe into the scam.

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