2G Spectrum ‘Scam’: From A Raja to Kanimozhi, Meet the Key Players
All 17 accused in the 2G spectrum ‘scam’ were acquitted on Thursday, 21 December, by a special CBI court.
(This piece is being republished from The Quint’s archives in light of the verdict in the 2G spectrum ‘scam’ on Thursday, 21 December, which acquitted all 17 accused in the case. A special CBI court chaired by Justice OP Saini pronounced the verdict.)
A special CBI court delivered the final verdict against the key accused in the 2G spectrum ‘scam’ on Thursday, 21 December. Special CBI Judge OP Saini declared all 17 accused in the case “not guilty” on Thursday, thus, absolving the then Manmohan Singh-led UPA II government of the charges that brought it down.
I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any accused.CBI Judge OP Saini
Justice OP Saini pronounced the judgment in two cases related to the ‘scam’ – one pertaining to corruption charges and the other filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Let's meet the key players of what was alleged to be the biggest scam in Indian telecom history.
The Dalit DMK leader, who took over as telecom minister in May 2007, was the main accused in the 2G ‘scam’, according to estimates by the Comptroller and Auditor General, caused losses to the tune of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer. The Supreme Court scrapped 122 licenses in 2012.
It was alleged that Raja colluded with telecom companies to hand out licences on a first-cum-first-serve basis. It was also alleged that cut-off dates were moved up and that irregularities were found in the issuance of these licences.
Following investigation, Raja resigned as telecom minister in November 2010 and was sent to Tihar Jail under judicial custody in February 2011. He was granted bail after 15 months by a special CBI court in May 2012.
Charges against A Raja
Raja was charged under Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by a public servant), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), and 468 and 471 (forgery).
He was also booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act for “accepting illegal gratification”. The Enforcement Directorate had also filed a separate case against him under charges of money laundering.
A Raja was acquitted by a special CBI court on Thursday, 21 December.
Also Read: 2G Spectrum Case: A Timeline of Major Events
Daughter of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, Kanimozhi was accused by the CBI of being a party to the 2G spectrum ‘scam’. Kalaignar TV, of which Kanimozhi holds a part of the shares, was accused of receiving Rs 214 crore as bribe from the ‘scam’. Jointly accused with A Raja, she went to prison in May 2011, and was granted bail after six months. According to a PTI report, Kanimozhi had denied having any stake in the management of Kalaignar TV when the ‘scam’ unfolded.
Kanimozhi, who was also charged with the same sections as A Raja, was acquitted on Thursday.
Reliance ADA Group
The Reliance ADA Group was accused of funding Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd (STPL), one of the main beneficiaries of the 2G spectrum ‘scam’. The charge-sheet filed by the CBI alleged that the Reliance Telecom Ltd (RTL) used Swan Telecom to get 2G licenses by violating the stipulated rules.
Niira Radia, testifying as a prosecution witness in the CBI court, had alleged that Swan Telecom was not an eligible company as per public perception. STPL and its promoters, Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, and three top executives of Reliance ADAG – Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair – were among the accused. All of them have been acquitted.
Top journalists and politicians had come under the radar after tapes of telephonic conversation between them and corporate lobbyist Niira Radia were made public. Following suspicion, the Income Tax Department had tapped the phone lines of Radia for a few months in 2008 and 2009.
Radia headed Vaishnavi Communication, a PR firm representing both Tata and Ambani groups. The tapes of these phone conversations hinted at mediation by Radia and journalists like Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi during the Cabinet formation of UPA-II, after which Raja was given the telecom portfolio. She was a key prosecution witness in the case.
One of the main persons involved with the investigation of the 2G spectrum ‘scam’, the BJP chief brought up charges against former finance minister P Chidambaram. His plea for prosecution of Chidambaram was initially rejected by the CBI court but when he approached the apex court, a detailed report was ordered. He also made allegations of Ratan Tata’s involvement in the money laundering case.
Manmohan Singh and UPA-II
Hugely criticised for the ‘scam’, the former prime minister also came under the radar when the ex-chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Pradip Baijal alleged that Singh had ‘coerced’ him to cooperate in the issuing of 2G spectrum licenses.
However, CBI was of the opinion that A Raja had misled Manmohan Singh in matters of policy pertaining to the allocation of licenses.
Ten individuals and nine companies were named in the final report, who were later chargesheeted by the ED under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Some of the accused are as follows:
Siddharth Behura, former Telecom Secretary
RK Chandolia, Raja’s erstwhile private secretary
Asif Balwa and Rajeev Agarwal, Directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables
Sharad Kumar, Kalaignar TV Director
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