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CBI turns the heat on Essar, ex-BJP ministers

Last updated on: September 2, 2011 10:55 IST

CBI turns the heat on Essar, ex-BJP ministers

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BS Reporter in New Delhi

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday put the spotlight back on former Bharatiya Janata Party ministers Jaswant Singh and Arun Shourie in connection with the allocation of 2G telecom licences to companies.

The agency also came out strongly on the Essar-Loop issue, stating in its 2G probe status report in the Supreme Court that by setting up Loop as its 'alter ego', Essar was able to circumvent government guidelines.

Department of Telecom (DoT) rules forbid a telecom operator from owning more than 10 per cent stake in another telco that provides services in the same area.

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Image: L - R: Jaswant Singh and Arun Shourie.
Photographs: Reuters
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CBI turns the heat on Essar, ex-BJP ministers

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The CBI said it would investigate BJP leader and former finance minister Jaswant Singh's role in the 2G scam, apart from that of then telecom ministers Arun Shourie and the late Pramod Mahajan. It will take two weeks to complete the probe.

Singh, Shourie and Mahajan were ministers during the National Democratic Alliance regime under then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. 

Meanwhile, the investigating agency gave some reprieve to Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP and former Union minister Dayanidhi Maran, saying there was no evidence yet to incriminate him on the allegations of coercion in the Aircel-Maxis deal.

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Image: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP and former Union minister Dayanidhi Maran.
Photographs: Reuters
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CBI turns the heat on Essar, ex-BJP ministers

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Earlier, Aircel founder C Sivasankaran had told the CBI that Maran had "coerced" him to sell his stake in the company to Malaysia-based conglomerate Maxis.

After Sivasankaran sold Aircel to Malaysia-based entrepreneur and Maxis owner T Ananda Krishnan, the pending licences were allocated to the telco.

It was alleged that Kalanithi Maran, brother of Dayanidhi, received an investment of around Rs 800 crore (Rs 8 billion) for his Sun network from Ananda Krishnan.

The CBI is investigating if the infusion of equity was a quid pro quo.


Image: Kalanithi Maran with PM Singh.

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CBI turns the heat on Essar, ex-BJP ministers

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Although Maran denied the allegations, he had to quit as the textile minister in July this year.

However, CBI counsel K K Venugopal told the apex court on Thursday that investigations had shown the company (Maxis), which was taking over Aircel, was in contact with Maran.

The CBI has indicated that Maran as well as top Maxis executives would be "asked to cooperate with the investigation".

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Image: CBI headquarters.

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CBI turns the heat on Essar, ex-BJP ministers

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On the Essar-Loop connection, the CBI counsel told the apex court the Essar group was holding 100 per cent in Loop through holding companies.

The agency added its investigations had revealed extremely cheap loans were given by Essar to Loop.

Reacting to the CBI stand, an Essar spokesperson said, "Essar would like to reiterate that it is and has always been in full compliance with UAS (unified access service) licence norms and is fully cooperating with the government authorities."

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Image: Essar House.

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The court was hearing petitions moved by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy, seeking prosecution of those involved in the 2G scam.

The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate submitted their status report to the court, as directed by the bench comprised of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice A K Ganguly.

Former telecom minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi, and several corporate bigwigs are among the 17 persons chargesheeted in connection with the 2G scam. They are all in Tihar jail.

A third chargesheet in the 2G scam is scheduled to be filed on September 15.



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