CBI seizes papers in daylong raids on Raja, family, aides (Roundup)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

NEW DELHI/CHENNAI - The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Wednesday seized “incriminating documents” after searching the houses of disgraced former telecom minister Andimuthu Raja in New Delhi and Chennai as well as those of his relatives and aides over the 2G spectrum row.

A few hours after the day-long raids began, CBI Director A.P. Singh told reporters in New Delhi that Raja, a prominent leader of the DMK who resigned from the union cabinet, was likely to be questioned soon.

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

Besides, searches were carried out at the houses of Raja’s close relatives and associates in Tamil Nadu - Raja’s home state. The office of a trust run by his family members was also searched.

Searches were also made at the houses 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.

“The raids have yielded recovery of incriminating documents. Searches are still going on,” CBI Deputy Inspector General Vinita Thakur told reporters in New Delhi in the evening.

She said the CBI searched 14 premises - 12 in New Delhi and two in Tamil Nadu.

The CBI said there were allegations about serious irregularities in the award of Unified Access Services (UAS) licence to private mobile companies.

Thakur said as per “information received (by the CBI) there was criminal conspiracy between certain officials of the department of telecommunications and private persons/companies”.

The conspiracy aimed to “award licences to these companies by putting a cap on the number of applications against the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI),” she added.

The conspirartors acted against the TRAI line by “awarding the licences to private companies on first-come-first-serve basis on the rates of 2001 without any competitive bidding” (in 2008), Thakur said.

In Chennai, it was learnt that CBI officials visited the Canara Bank branch in Perambalur, Raja’s native town, and conducted enquiries. Officials of the bank in Trichy, however, would 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 day in New Delhi as well as at a few places in Tamil Nadu.

The AIADMK - the major opposition party in Tamil Nadu - has 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 Prevention of Corruption Act.

“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 felt 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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