2G scam: A Raja’s ex-aide stands by statement, indicts others also

Aseervartham Achary, Mr Raja’s former additional private secretary, told special CBI judge OP Saini Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka and Unitech MD Sanjay Chandra, also accused in the 2G case, used to meet Mr Raja and his ex-private secretary RK Chandolia to pursue their cases with the environment ministry

New Delhi: A key second generation (2G) case witness and ex-aide of A Raja Monday told a Delhi court that the former telecom minister was in touch with Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka and Unitech MD Sanjay Chandra and had cleared their projects during his stint with ministry of environment and forests in 2004-07, reports PTI.

Aseervartham Achary, Mr Raja's former additional private secretary, told special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge OP Saini these three corporate executives, also accused in the 2G case, used to meet Mr Raja and his ex-private secretary RK Chandolia to pursue their cases with the environment ministry.

Mr Achary, testifying as seventh prosecution witness, stood by his earlier statements and said that he was attached with Mr Raja from October 1999 to October 2008.

“The big construction projects cleared by Mr Raja as minister of environment... included Unitech, DB Realty and other companies. I do not know the procedure for making such clearances as I was not involved in these clearances.

“As far as Unitech is concerned, Sanjay Chandra and as far as DB Realty is concerned, Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka used to follow up. They used to meet Mr Raja and Mr Chandolia on regular basis to pursue their cases in ministry of environment and forests...” Mr Achary said, adding, they also used to visit Mr Raja’s official residence during September-December 2007.

He identified Mr Raja’s signatures on two letters of 2 November 2007, addressed to the prime minister and said one of the letters was dictated and typed at the official residence of Mr Raja after 9pm.

“This letter (second letter) was dictated and typed at the official residence of Mr Raja after 9pm and before 11.30pm.

It is not usual for me to remain present at official residence of Mr Raja at these hours. I was called to his residence by Mr Raja over phone,” he said.

Discussing the drafting of the letter, the witness said “...When I reached the residence of Mr Raja, he told me that a letter has come from the prime minister of India and he has to reply back then and there. He asked me to come and let us prepare the reply. I remained at the residence of Raja till about midnight. The reply was dispatched after its preparation at about 11.30pm.” 

The witness, whose recording of statement would continue Tuesday, also identified Mr Raja’s signatures on a letter of 26 December 2007 addressed to the prime minister.

On the issue of Kalaignar TV, to which DB Realty had allegedly paid Rs200 crore bribe, Mr Achary said that Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi and its MD Sharad Kumar, accused in the case, were pursuing the matter regarding the clearance, required to launch a channel, from information and broadcasting ministry.

He also said corporate lobbyist Niira Radia had called him (Mr Achary) on phone on 18 September 2008 to convey a message to Raja about putting Kalaignar TV in the Tata Sky bouquet.

“On one occasion, she (Ms Radia) called me because she could not get through to A Raja on phone. She wanted me to convey to Mr Raja about putting Kalaignar TV in the Tata Sky platform.

“She said that she had arranged for putting Kalaignar TV in the Tata Sky platform. This conversation between me and Ms Radia took place on 18 September 2008,” he said.

Regarding former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, also a co-accused, Mr Achary said Mr Behura was the additional secretary in the ministry of environment and forests during Mr Raja’s tenure and joined the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) on 1 January 2008 as the secretary.

Mr Achary also told the court that Mr Raja was under “very much tension” during December 2007 and he had seen him shouting at former telecom secretary Mr Behura’s predecessor DS Mathur.

Discussing the events, the witness said, “During December 2007, A Raja was under very much tension and on one occasion I heard him shouting as DS Mathur. On hearing this, I opened the door and I saw Mr Raja shouting and arguing with Mr Mathur. I closed the door and came to my seat. I asked Mr Raja as to why he was shouting at Mr Mathur and he replied that this man is not listening to me and that is why, I am shouting.” 

After the prosecutor concluded recording Mr Achary’s statement, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Ms Kanimozhi, cross-examined him for few minutes before the court adjourned the hearing for Tuesday.

Mr Jethmalani started cross-examining Mr Achary by complimenting him and said, “I have heard that you are a fighter against corruption”.

“It is correct that I am a fighter against corruption and do not mince words as far as fight against corruption is concerned. It is also correct that as a good citizen, I will make every sacrifice to expose corruption, as when as, I come across it,” the witness replied.

Mr Jethmalani said he was not an enemy of Mr Achary but was seeking clarifications on what he has said while recording his testimony in the court.

Mr Achary, who left the telecom ministry in July 2008, said he had decided to leave Mr Raja in 2005 itself and time and again, had requested the minister to relieve him so that he could go back to his parent department (ministry of railways) to work as a full-fledged section officer and also to devote time to his family.

“However, Mr Raja was reluctant to relieve me and at last I told him I have to leave him. It is correct that finally, I asked him relieve me in July 2008 and within three months of that, I was relieved and joined my parent ministry, that is, Railway Board,” he said.

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Follow KYC norms or face penalty, RBI tells banks

Banks are required to strictly adhere to KYC norms, Anti-Money Laundering standards, Combating of Financing of Terrorism, obligation of banks under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, the RBI said in a notification

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday asked banks to strictly follow the Know Your Customer (KYC) norms or Anti-Money Laundering (AML) standards, failing which it will take penal action, reports PTI.

“Any contravention thereof or non-compliance shall attract penalties under Banking Regulation Act, 1949,” RBI said in a notification.

Banks are required to strictly adhere to KYC norms, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) standards, Combating of Financing of Terrorism (CFT), obligation of banks under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, it said.

RBI said banks are required to prepare a risk profile of each customer and apply enhanced due diligence measures on higher risk customers.

Banks and financial institutions should have policies, controls and procedures, duly approved by their boards, in place to effectively manage and mitigate their risk adopting a risk-based approach, it said.

As a corollary, banks would be required to adopt enhanced measures for products, services and customers with a medium or high risk rating, it added.

In this regard, it said, Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has taken initiative in assessment of money laundering and financial terror and risk in the banking sector.

The IBA guidance also provides an indicative list of high risk customers, products, services and geographies. Banks may use the same as guidance in their own risk assessment, it added.

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RBI allows MFIs to raise $10 million through ECBs

“Considering the specific needs of the microfinance sector, the existing ECBs policy has been reviewed in consultation with the Government of India and it has been decided that MFIs may be permitted to raise ECB up to $10 million or equivalent during a financial year for permitted end-uses, under the automatic route,” RBI said in a notification

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday allowed microfinance institutions (MFIs) to raise up to $10 million through external commercial borrowings (ECBs), as against the earlier limit of $5 million, a move that will widen their fund raising sources, reports PTI.

“Considering the specific needs of the microfinance sector, the existing ECBs policy has been reviewed in consultation with the Government of India and it has been decided that microfinance institutions (MFIs) may be permitted to raise ECB up to $10 million or equivalent during a financial year for permitted end-uses, under the automatic route,” RBI said in a notification.

It has also been decided that non-government organisations (NGOs) engaged in microfinance activities can avail of ECB up to $10 million or equivalent per financial year under the automatic route, up from $5 million or equivalent, RBI said.

Of late, the MFI sector has been facing liquidity crunch resulting in the RBI announcing a working group on restructuring of loans.

Last week, RBI deputy governor HR Khan had said, “all MFIs of all hues will now be permitted to take ECB of (up to) $10 million.”

“Of course, they have to be hedged. If you don’t hedge you get into difficulties,” Mr Khan had said.

As part of eligibility criteria, the MFIs registered as societies, trusts and co-operatives and engaged in microfinance should have a satisfactory borrowing relationship for at least three years with a scheduled commercial bank authorised to deal in foreign exchange.

MFIs would require a certificate of due diligence on ‘fit and proper’ status of the board of the borrowing entity from the designated authorised dealer bank.

The notification further said ECB funds should be routed through normal banking channels. NBFC-MFIs will be permitted to avail of ECBs from multilateral institutions, such as IFC, ADB, etc.

Companies registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act and engaged in microfinance will be permitted to avail of ECBs from international banks, multilateral financial institutions, export credit agencies, foreign equity holders, overseas organisations and individuals, it said.

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