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The strange case of the 2G investigator & scribe

By Sahim Salim
August 05, 2011 14:54 IST
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Rajeshwar Singh, assistant director, Enforcement Directorate, who is among the officials probing the 2G spectrum scam, has asked to be excused from the probe. Sahim Salim finds out why.

Why has Rajeshwar Singh, an assistant director at the Enforcement Directorate, asked to be excused from the 2G investigation?

Singh found himself the sudden subject of 50-odd complaints filed by a journalist formerly working for the Sahara Group.

Singh, who claims there has not been a single complaint filed against him in 13 years of government service, says the complaints are "frivolous" and that they have been made to stall his investigations into the Sahara group's alleged involvement in the 2G scam.

All the complaints were filed after Singh issued a summons to Sahara Parivar Chairman Subroto Roy and other managers at the Sahara Group to explain their financial dealings with S-Tel, a telecom company that was awarded 2G spectrum.

The 50 complaints are almost identical, Singh says, and have been filed before different agencies -- from the Prime Minister's Office, to the President's office and different ministries, all of which forwarded the complaints to the Union finance ministry, under whose ambit the Enforcement Directorate operates.

Singh requested his superiors that he be withdrawn from the 2G probe since he is fed up of the explanations he had to provide following receipt of the complaints.

"I want to get away from all this," he says. "After my first request to be excused on June 7, I have reiterated my request three times with the Enforcement Directorate. Almost every day there is something new. I am planning on filing a second contempt petition against the journalist, Subodh Jain (the complainant), because he sent the matter to a news channel who asked me to comment. I am fed up."

Singh alleged that the journalist, Subodh Jain, who was reportedly asked to leave the Sahara group, is still working at the latter's behest.

"His dismissal is a sham," he charged.

"Has he filed any complaints prior to February when I issued summons to Subroto Roy?" Singh asked.

In February, Singh issued a summons to Roy to explain his company's dealings with S-Tel. In May, he was surprised to receive a hand-delivered questionnaire at his office, which consisted of 25 questions -- all of a personal nature.

'Sahara News Network (which is owned by the Sahara Group) is in possession of some important documents related to you and other members of your family... We plan to do a series of stories based on those documents. However, journalistic ethic (sic) demands that you get a chance to give your side of the story,' the letter began.

There are 25 questions, Singh said, as he read out parts of the letter:

'Q3. You have subscribed to as many as 86 telephone connections in the last 10 years. You have purchased more than a dozen fancy mobile phones in the last few years. How was the purchase financed?'

'Q7. You have 3-4 sim cards. How do you recharge them?'

'Q13. You are fond of a luxurious lifestyle for which you keep taking favours from private companies. Which are these companies?'

'Q16. You have a network of journalists who are used to plant stories. Do you pay them for doing so?'

'Q23. You threw a lavish party to celebrate the birthday of your child in October 2010. How was this party funded?'

Following this, Singh moved the Supreme Court for contempt in May. Taking note of his petition, the court said there was a prima facie case against Roy and journalists Upendra Rai and Subodh Jain of the Sahara India News Network for interfering with the 2G probe and issued notices for contempt.

The bench also banned Sahara India News Network and its sister concerns from publishing and broadcasting any story or programme relating to Singh.

After this development, the Sahara Group terminated Jain's services. Jain continued to lodge complaints against Singh with different government departments. The complaints allege that Singh resorts to corporate blackmail and has property not proportionate to his income.

"I have spent the last few months answering these complaints instead of investigating the 2G case," Singh said.

After much reluctance, Subodh Jain agreed to meet this correspondent in his Hyundai Santro car.

"The only reason Singh is in the ED is because of his political connections. He has so much property in Uttar Pradesh, which is contradictory to his source of income," Jain alleged.

Asked why he began his series only after Sahara chief Subroto Roy received the ED summons, Jain claimed, "I got a lead and I worked on it."

Asked if the Sahara group was behind his filing the complaints, Jain said, "I am a reporter and I was working on a story. Sahara has terminated me. How can I be working at their behest when they have terminated me? I have submitted documents to the Supreme Court, which prove Singh took favours from Sahara as well."

"You say Rajeshwar Singh has asked ED headquarters to be excused from the 2G investigations. Why has he not approached the court asking to be excused?" Jain asked. "I am not asking that he be investigated during the 2G probe. But what if he is probed after the investigations into the 2G scandal?"

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Sahim Salim in New Delhi
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