2G: Raids at Airtel, Vodafone offices after CBI files new case

New Delhi : The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Saturday conducted raids in Delhi and Mumbai at offices of three private cellular companies and the houses of two former telecom officials after the agency filed a new case in allocation of additional 2G spectrum when the late Pramod Mahajan was telecom minister during the NDA government, CBI officials said.

The probe agency registered the case Thursday evening for alleged irregularities in the grant of additional spectrum and causing a loss of approximately Rs.508.22 crore to the exchequer during the period 2001 and 2007.

The case was registered against three private telecom companies — Bharti Cellular now know as Bharti Airtel, Hutchison Max now known as Vodafone Essar, and Sterling Cellular now known as Vodafone Essar Mobile Services — and two telecom officials — Shyamal Ghosh, the then chairman of Telecom Commission and secretary (Telecom) and then deputy director general (Value Added Services in the ministry) J.R. Gupta.

The CBI conducted three raids in New Delhi, one in Gurgaon (Airtel) and one in Mumbai (Vodafone).

The agency has also registered a case against unknown officials of Department of Telecommunications.

The agency has excluded the then telecom minister in the case since he is dead. The late Pramod Mahajan of the Bharatiya Janata Party was communications minister between 2001-2003.

“It is alleged that Ghosh and Gupta entered into conspiracy with these telecom companies and abused their official positions,” CBI Spokesperson Dharini Mishra said.

The officials with the approval of the minister allegedly took a wrong decision on January 2001 to allocate additional spectrum beyond 6.2 megahertz in violation of the Technical Committee’s report.

They also allocated the companies spectrum till 10 megahertz at the fee of an incremental one percent adjusted gross revenue (AGR), instead of charging two percent of AGR for beyond 6.2 megahertz. Till 8 megahertz, they had to charge two percent as per the applicable rules, said Mishra.

The officials showed undue favours and caused cumulative advantage of approximately Rs.508.22 crore to these companies, the CBI said.

The order to allocate was reserved by Department of Telecommunications in 2008.

The investigating agency in January this year had conducted a preliminary inquiry regarding the allocation of additional spectrum from 2001 to 2007.

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