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2G probe: CBI books telcos and officials during Mahajan tenure

New Delhi : Expanding its probe to cover the NDA regime, CBI today registered a case against Shyamal Ghosh, who was Secretary in the Telecom Ministry headed by late Pramod Mahajan, and two Telecom service providers — Airtel and Vodafone for alleged irregularities in grant of additional 2G spectrum.

Immediately after registering of the case, CBI teams searched the offices of the two major telecom companies and residences of Ghosh and J R Gupta, who was the Deputy
Director General (Value Added Services) in the Telecom Ministry during Mahajan’s tenure.

The searches were carried out at the official premises of Vodafone in Mumbai, Airtel in Gurgaon and residences of Ghosh and Gupta, CBI said.

The fresh case in which the CBI alleged there was a loss of Rs 508 crore to the state exchequer during 2001-07 came in the wake of directions from Supreme Court to probe allocation of spectrum between 2001 and 2007 after the CBI filed cases against former Telecom Ministers Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja.

The case against Ghosh, Gupta, Bharti Cellular (now known as Bharti Airtel), and Hutchinson Max and Sterling Cellular (now known as Vodafone Essar) was registered under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and various sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, CBI alleged. Gupta retired as Director, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.

“The then Minister for Telecom and Communication (Pramod Mahajan) has been excluded since he expired,” CBI said in a statement but accused he was a part of criminal conspiracy to allocate the additional spectrum in a “hurried” manner. Mahajan of the BJP was the Telecom Minister during 2001-03.

Responding to the raids, both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone said they had always maintained the highest standard of corporate governance and regulatory compliance.
CBI had registered a Preliminary Enquiry to look into the allocation of spectrum under Mahajan to certain companies beyond the prescribed limit.

The CBI alleged in its FIR that Department of Telecom had increased the base spectrum for telecom companies from 4.4 MhZ to 6.2 MhZ during Mahajan’s tenure from 2001 to 2003 and also allocated extra spectrum on subscriber-based criteria.

In the FIR, CBI said a case has been registered against the then Telecom Secretary, the then DDG (VAS); three Private Cellular Companies, and others for alleged irregularities in the grant of additional 2G Spectrum and causing a Loss of Rs 508 Crore approximately during the period 2001-2007.

It was alleged that the then Secretary (Telecom) and the then DDG (VAS), Department of
Telecom, entered into a criminal conspiracy with three beneficiary private companies, based at Delhi and Mumbai, and abused their official positions as public servants.
“We would like to categorically state that all the spectrum alloted to us from time to time has been strictly as per the stated government policy,” Bharti Airtel spokesperson said.

“We are providing all details and correspondence to the authorities and shall provide complete support as needed in the matter,” the spokesperson said.
Vodafone said all their documents related to the spectrum allocation were in compliance with the governing laws and regulations and it was cooperating with the agency officials.

“There was a visit by CBI officials this morning at our office in Mumbai and Delhi seeking information related to the spectrum allocation to operators during 2001-02. All our documents are in complete compliance with the governing laws and regulations,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

“Vodafone India is completely co-operating with the officials and will provide them all the required details as part of their checks,” the spokesperson said.

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