2G SCAM: EX-TELECOM MINISTER A RAJA, CLOSE AIDES ARRESTED
Former telecom minister A Raja and his two close aides -- RK Chandolia and Siddartha Behura have been arrested in connection with 2G spectrum scam.
New Delhi: Three months after he was forced to step down as Union Minister, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday finally arrested former telecom minister A Raja in connection with the 2G spectrum scam, billed as the country`s biggest corruption scandal to date.
The arrest came after the investigating agency questioned Raja for the fourth time Wednesday. He was questioned on Dec 24, Dec 25 last year and January 31 this year.
Retired bureaucrat, Siddartha Behura, who was Telecom Secretary in 2008 when the controversial decision to give licenses was taken, and Raja`s Personal Secretary R K Chandolia, were also arrested with the former Minister, all of whom were called to the CBI headquarters this morning.
"Based on the facts disclosed so far during the investigations regarding their role in allocation of Letter of Intent and resultant Unified Access Services Licenses and Spectrum to certain companies ahead of others, the CBI has today arrested the then Telecom Minister, the then Telecom Secretary, the then Private Secretary to the Minister," a brief statement issued by the CBI said.
Chandolia and Behura were arrested for allegedly abusing their official position and manipulating the tendering procedures to benefit certain telecom companies in getting the spectrum.
Raja’s brother Perumal was questioned by the CBI yesterday about alleged funding of some front organisations owned by telecom companies which had been allocated spectrum from October 2007 to January 2008.
The CBI move came after a one-man commission, Justice Shivraj Patil, reportedly indicted Raja in his probe covering violation of government procedures and guidelines for allocating spectrum.
Raja is alleged to have showed favours to some telecom companies in granting 2G spectrum between October 2007 and 2008.
Besides others, CBI has also questioned former Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chief Pradip Baijal, a 1966 batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, and former telecom secretaries Siddartha Behura and DS Mathur in connection with the case.
The CBI and Enforcement Directorate have been asked by the Supreme Court to submit status reports on their investigations into the 2G spectrum case before it by February 10, when the case will come up for further hearing.
In its FIR, CBI pegged the loss at Rs 22,000 crore based on CVC findings which had referred the case to it.
Justice Shivraj Patil had earlier this week handed over to new Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal his probe report. Justice Patil was asked in December to look into whether officials in the Telecom Ministry had, since 1991, violated government procedures and guidelines for allocating spectrum. In 1991, the NDA government was in power at the centre - so Justice Patil`s inquiry extends to the pre-UPA era as well.
Justice Patil had said on record that his report did indict some officials in the Telecom Ministry. Reports claimed that he had linked A Raja to their violations.
During questioning, the CBI had confronted DMK MP Raja with questions and documents recovered from the computers seized during raids conducted by the investigation agency earlier at his premises.
Raja was on earlier occasions questioned at length on the circumstances leading to spectrum allocation which has been criticised severely by the Central Vigilance Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
He was also asked about his conversations with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and the reasons of advancing the cut-off date of allocation of the spectrum in 2007.
Raja was forced to resign on November 14 last year in the wake of the CAG report which held that the spectrum allocation at undervalued prices resulted in a notional loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the state exchequer.
Raja got the telecom portfolio on May 18, 2007 and was re-elected as a Member of the 15th Lok Sabha and continued as Telecom Minister from May 31, 2009, till November 14, 2010 before he tendered his resignation.
(With Agency inputs)