Raja’s CBI custody extended by four days

Thursday, February 10, 2011

NEW DELHI - A Delhi court Thursday remanded former communications minister A. Raja for four more days in CBI custody in the spectrum allocation scandal.

The Central Bureau of Investigation also got four days of custody of Shahid Usman Balwa, managing director of DB Realty, which has been accused of corruption in the scandal.

CBI special judge O.P. Saini said: “Accused Balwa is alleged to be a major beneficiary of the illegal acts of co-accused (Raja) in the grant of Unified Access Service (UAS) licenses.

“I find merit in the submission of the investigating agency seeking grant for four days CBI custody of both accused. Prayer is allowed. Both accused are remanded in police custody till Feb 14.”

The judge said this was necessary because the scam was of “serious nature” and investigators needed to seize more documents, confront the accused with each other and interrogate them further.

According to Saini, the CBI said they needed to talk to Raja and Balwa at length to unearth the conspiracy behind the allocation of precious second generation spectrum.

“The case of prosecution is that the illegal acts of the accused caused huge pecuniary losses to the government to the tune Rs.22,000 crore,” said Saini.

While seeking the custody of Raja and Balwa, CBI prosecutor Akhilesh submitted that the former minister, who quit the cabinet of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November, favoured Balwa in the grant of UAS licences.

“The case is quite complex and the documents are large in number and spread over in different offices and location,” the CBI argued.

Meanwhile, counsel for Balwa, Vijay Aggarwal, opposed the CBI plea saying his arrest was illegal as he had joined the investigation and even visited the CBI office numerous times.

“Balwa is being unfairly targeted as there are seven more operators who have got licences but they have neither been interrogated nor arrested,” he said.

“The loss alleged to have been suffered by the exchequer is imaginary,” he added.

The court rejected the plea saying Blawa was arrested after he failed to join the investigation even after three notices were served and that there was nothing illegal in his arrest.

Saini brushed aside senior advocate Ramesh Gupta’s argument that Raja should not be kept any more in CBI custody.

Raja was sent to two days in CBI custody Tuesday while Balwa was brought to Delhi Wednesday by a CBI team after a Mumbai court granted the agency his two-day transit remand.

According to CBI, Balwa’s company Swan Telecom (a part of Mumbai-based DB Realty) allegedly got favours in spectrum allocation.

This is the first time the CBI has directly accused Raja of complicity in the scam since filing a first information report against unknown officials and private persons and companies Oct 21, 2009.

On Feb 8, Raja, former telecom secretary Siddarth Behura and Raja’s former aide R.K. Chandolia were sent to 14 days judicial custody as the CBI did not seek their further police custody.

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