Po­lice raid min­is­ter’s homes in In­dia tele­com scam

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

NEW DELHI: In­dian po­lice on Wed­nes­day raided two homes of a for­mer tele­coms min­is­ter al­leged to have sold off mo­bile phone li­cences at knock-down prices in a scam that cost the govern­ment bil­lions of dol­lars.

A spokesman for the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion said A. Raja's res­i­dences in the cap­i­tal New Delhi and in his con­stituency in the south­ern state of Tamil Nadu were searched by po­lice.

Raja, who was forced to re­sign last month, is ac­cused of chang­ing bid­ding rules to favour se­lected com­pa­nies who were of­ten in­el­i­gi­ble to com­pete for the lu­cra­tive sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion (2G) mo­bile phone li­cences.

The li­cences were sold in 2008 at cut-price rates that de­nied the trea­sury up to 40 bil­lion dol­lars in lost rev­enue, ac­cord­ing to the na­tional au­di­tor. The scan­dal, which could prove to be the biggest cor­rup­tion case in In­dia's his­tory, has en­gulfed the Congress-led rul­ing coali­tion and is seen as one of the govern­ment's most se­ri­ous set­backs since it came to power six years ago.

In a cam­paign for a cross­party in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the main op­po­si­tion par­ties have stalled par­lia­ment for weeks.

The govern­ment has re­fused to agree to the de­mands, say­ing that the po­lice and state anti-cor­rup­tion bod­ies are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the sales.

Raja be­longs to a re­gional party that is key to the Congress al­liance hold­ing onto power, prompt­ing ac­cu­sa­tions that Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh was slow to act against him af­ter the 2G sell-off.

Raja's lawyer, T.R. And­h­yaru­jina, told the Supreme Court last week that his client had only been fol­low­ing pro­ce­dures es­tab­lished by pre­vi­ous min­is­ters.

Raids were also car­ried out at of­fices and homes of four other tele­coms of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Raja's for­mer per­sonal sec­re­tary and later eco­nomic ad­viser R. K. Chan­do­lia.

Raja, speak­ing through his lawyer in the Supreme Court, com­plained that he had been found guilty with­out trial.

"I stand con­demned, charge-sheeted, tried and con­victed by the me­dia," Raja said in his state­ment. "My stock is so low that any­thing I say does not re­deem my po­si­tion."

He was not con­tactable to re­spond to the po­lice raids.

Amid more protests from the op­po­si­tion, par­lia­ment was again sus­pended on Wed­nes­day-the 19th work­ing day that has been lost since the win­ter ses­sion be­gan on Novem­ber 9. The op­po­si­tion ac­tion looks likely to scup­per the en­tire win­ter par­lia­men­tary ses­sion, which fin­ishes on De­cem­ber 13. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pranab Mukher­jee ad­mit­ted last week that the govern­ment did not know how to re­solve the stand-off, which has been led by the Hindu na­tion­al­ist Bharatiya Janata Party. -Afp

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