Tata cleared off 2G spectrum loop by CBI; ED probe on

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Tata Communications
New Delhi, Jun 9: Looks like Tata Teleservices can breathe easy after their name was cleared off any wrongdoing by the CBI, in its report presented to the JPC. The CBI who is probing the various irregularities in the 2G spectrum scam, also found that Tata Teleservices did not unfairly benefit but lost out to Swan Telecom in getting licenses in the Delhi circle.

In the status report presented to the JPC, the CBI reveled that the purported land transaction between Tata Realty and Unitech in Gurgaon for 517 acres was a one-off deal and was not carried out in violation of licensing rules. Meanwhile, investigations are on in the Chennai Voltas property deal.

Though Tata Teleservices was given a clean chit by the CBI, the ED is looking into the companies violations under the Foreign Exchange and Money Laundering laws, according to a submission by ED Director Arun Mathur to the committee.

The CBI also indicted A Raja, former Telecom Minister for “ignoring advice from various corners of the government for a revision of entry fees for new UAS licences and dual tech applicants and deliberately and dishonestly not considering auction or revision of entry fees". It also added that the proper method of auction was not put forth either by the telecom regulator or any other ministry ahead of the 2G allocations. The CBI also quoted a communication from PM Manmohan Singh to A Raja asking him to review the revision in pricing and the auctions.

TRAI however washed its hands off the issue by saying that they did not recommend auctions as claimed by its Chairman J S Sarma. The CBI has however taken cognisance of the fact that the finance and law ministries along with the PM has asked Raja to revise the 2001 entry fee for the 2008 licenses.

The CBI director AP Singh in his disposition before the JPC said that Raja had only considered the Tata application on May 5, 2008 when it actually have done the same in Jan 10, 2008 at the time the new unified access licences were allotted. The agency added, “Tata should have been treated as an existing licencee with seniority over new applicants."

It also found that Raja and Shahid Balwa, Swan Telecom promoter conspired to deprive Tata in attaining the in-demand Delhi circle and the telecom ministry's wireless planning and coordination cells were also influenced that led to "unreasonably deprive Tata Teleservices and Spice Communications".

Also facing probe is the Unitech land deal for which the CBI said that the Tata's got into the Rs 2,500-crore deal. Rs 1,700 crore was paid for the same of which Rs 1,098 crore was returned to the real estate firm. This clears the false report that Tata's paid Unitech to pay for 2G licenses. The agency commented on this, “(It) cannot be proven that Unitech was an associate of Tata Sons in keeping with unified access service licences guidelines."

Following investigations into the alleged ivolvement between Essar group and Loop Telecom, the CBI quoted an opinion by the corporate affairs ministry and said that the “funds from Essar have been routed through STPL and BPL back to Essar, providing Rs 800 crore dues to STPL with significant links and benefits arising to STPL from the transactions". They are also looking into how Reliance Telecom structured Swan so that the association will not be detected. Awaiting inputs from abroad, the agency is also investigating the holding companies behind Loop and the clandestine relationship between Delphi, Reliance Telecom and Swan.

The CBI also stated in its report that they found no illegalities in the guarantees and funds offered to telecom companies by public sector banks. They also cleared names of telecom officials who were accused of signing loans agreements that was proven false.

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