Police raid minister’s homes in India telecom scam
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