Anil faces 2G probe; clean chit for Tatas

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 30 2011, 06:10am hrs
There could be trouble ahead for ADAG chairman Anil Ambani. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday told the Supreme Court that in the course of tracking the real beneficiaries of Swan Telecoms stake sale to Mauritius-registered Delphi, it is looking into the alleged role of Ambani and other ADAG employees. The agency also said the sale to Delphi was at an undervalued price. Meanwhile, the agency also gave a clean chit to Tata Teleservices and Datacom.

The CBI also told the court that three ADAG employees currently in jail may turn approvers, which would help the agency find out the real beneficiaries.

There was more bad news for ADAG when the probe agency told the court that it would not be influenced by the law ministry's definition of associate companies while investigating whether Swan was a front for Reliance Telecom. Going by the law ministry definition would have taken some heat off the Anil Ambani firm.

Senior CBI counsel KK Venugopal told a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguli that jailed senior ADAG executives Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair had submitted before the CBI special court that they took the decision on the stake sale. However, they later retracted the statement before the Delhi High Court, arguing they were mere employees and not the real beneficiaries.

We will be investigating who are the real beneficiaries and who took decisions... They (ADAG executives) will have to turn approvers so as to provide information about who were the real beneficiaries, Venugopal said.

The charge against the three jailed executives is that they formed Swan out of funds arranged from Reliance Telecom with the common intention to cheat. They violated unified access service licence (UASL) guidelines, which prohibits a company already providing telecom services in a circle to get another licence if its equity in the latter company was more than 10%.

ADAG, on its part, has consistently maintained that its stake in Swan at the time it applied for the licences was only 9.9%.

However, the same has been rebutted by the CAG and the CBI saying Swan was created out of funds from RTL and so it was just a front company. Once Reliance Communications, the CDMA arm of ADAG, got GSM spectrum, it sold off its stake in Swan to Delphi at a discounted price. This further suggests, according to the CBI that Swan was a front company of RTL.

While Ambani received a setback, Tata group's Tata Teleservices and Venugopal Dhoot's Datacom (now Videocon Telecommunications) got clean chits. The agency said the two firms were not the beneficiaries of the spectrum allocation. Specific to TTSL, it said they were in fact victims of Rajas policies as he favoured companies like Swan and Unitech Wireless over TTSL in allocating spectrum.

On Datacom, it said unlike Swan and Unitech Wireless, it was eligible for licences.

The Tata Group was also given a clean chit in the Voltas land deal with the DMK family in Chennai.

Defending home minister P Chidambaram, who has been accused of not doing anything to stop the 2G spectrum scam as the then finance minister, the CBI said it is easy to attack the minister as it is politically fruitful.

The finance minister could not have cancelled the licences by himself as it had to be a major policy decision by the government, the CBI said.

The court fixed the next date for hearing in the case on October 10.