Antrix-Devas Deal: CBI files chargesheet against former ISRO chief Madhavan Nair

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The Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday filed a chargesheet against former ISRO chief Madhavan Nair and others in connection with the Antrix-Devas deal. Charges have also been framed against former Executive Director of Antrix, K R Sridaramurthy and senior officials of Bengaluru-based Devas Multimedia, a company founded by former Isro official M.G. Chandrashekar.

The chargesheet comes three months after the CBI had questioned Nair.['Devas'tated: India may have to pay close to a billion dollars for ISRO folly]

Former ISRO chief Madhavan Nair

A case had been filed by the CBI to probe an alleged wrong gain of Rs 578 crore to the private company Devas by Isro's commercial arm Antrix in a sweet heart deal that included giving Devas precious S-band spectrum as well as launch services for the company to offer satellite-based broadband services in India.

Nair had been questioned by the CBI in Delhi and details of the deal entered into by Antrix Corporation and Devas on January 28 2005 were sought.

[Devas-Antrix deal: CBI conducts raids, registers case]

The CBI while registering the case had slapped charges under Section 120-B (Criminal Conspiracy), 420 (Cheating) of the Indian Penal Code. Provisions under the Prevention of Corruption Act were also invoked by the CBI which filed its chargesheet.

The CBI alleged that the accused persons and government officials had entered into a criminal conspiracy to favour Devas by giving them rights for delivery of videos, multimedia and information services to mobile phones using S-Band through GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A satellites and terrestrial systems in India.

The CBI states that while doing so the accused persons caused "wrongful gain
of Rs 578 crore" to the private firm and its owners.

Further, the CBI has alleged that when a proposal seeking budgetary support of Rs 269 crore for approving design, manufacture and launch of GSAT-6/INSAT-4E (PS1) was placed in the 104th meeting of the Space Commission on May 26, 2005, it was not informed that the agreement had already taken place with Devas Multimedia for leasing out the S-Band spectrum. The approval of Space Commission was obtained by keeping it in the dark.

The CBI states that on November 17, 2005 a note for the Cabinet was submitted for building the GSAT-6 satellite as earlier approved by the Space Commission. Information regarding the agreement between Antrix Corporation Limited and Devas Multimedia Limited was suppressed from the Cabinet and wrong information regarding utilisation of satellite capacity was given to the Union Cabinet.

[CBI continues to question ISRO ex-chief on Antrix deal]

"The proposal was approved by the Cabinet in December 2005," the chargesheet said.

The CBI said in its FIR that after the alleged omissions and commissions on the part of the accused persons surfaced, the agreement dated January 28, 2005 was annulled by Antrix Corporation in accordance with the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

CBI has alleged that Devas with the intent to siphon off the amount from its bank accounts in India got a subsidiary named Devas USA incorporated in America and a substantial part of the "wrongful" gain was remitted to Devas USA on the pretext of services, salaries, etc. It is suspected that the illegal gratification was paid to the accused public servants from the amount remitted from India as motive or reward for taking the aforementioned favour," the CBI alleged.

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