CBI names Swan, Unitech in 2G scam

Court remands Raja, two others in CBI custody for five days

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today accused former telecom minister A Raja of causing a loss of Rs22,000 crore to the exchequer by favouring some telecom firms in awarding 2G licences and spectrum and it named Swan Telecom and Unitech as receiving favourable treatment in this process.

This was stated before the court by special public prosecutor Mr Akhilesh, representing the CBI, while seeking the custody of Mr Raja, former telecom secretary Siddartha Behura and Raja's former personal secretary RK Chandolia for five days. Special judge OP Saini granted the plea, reports PTI.

The CBI arrested Mr Raja and the two others on Wednesday over irregularities in awarding licences and spectrum at below market prices. "Undue favours were granted in the allocation ... The companies were favoured and spectrum and licences were awarded at a low rate," Mr Akhilesh told the court.

The CBI said that the custody of the former minister was essential for further questioning, because he had been evasive in replying to their queries during his interrogation at the agency's headquarters. It is for the first time that the CBI has directly accused Mr Raja of complicity in the 2G scam after it had filed an FIR against unidentified officials and private persons and companies on 21 October 2009.

The 47-year-old DMK member of parliament, who was dressed in a grey suit, appeared cool and composed and greeted the judge with folded hands. At the outset, Mr Raja's counsel Ramesh Gupta sought time for a private conversation, which the judge allowed for ten minutes.

Seeking the custody of the three men, Mr Akhilesh argued that Mr Raja had caused a loss of Rs22,000 crore to the public exchequer by favouring some telecom firms in awarding 2G licences and spectrum. Though the agency has pegged the loss at Rs22,000 crore, based on the calculations made by the Central Vigilance Commmission, the Comptroller and Auditor General had in its report projected a presumptive loss of Rs1.76 lakh crore.

Norway's Telenor, which is 54% owned by the Norwegian state, has a majority stake in Unitech Wireless. UAE's Etisalat owns about 45% of Swan, which has since been renamed as Etisalat DB. Both companies were not immediately available for comment, but they have in the past denied any wrongdoing.
Both Telenor and Etisalat bought their stakes at a considerable premium after the Indian firms were given the licences.

Mr Raja's lawyer opposed the CBI plea saying that his client was innocent and that all the decisions with regard to granting of 2G licences and spectrum had the approval of the Union Cabinet and various statutory panels. "Accordingly, Mr Raja was not solely responsible in the alleged scam," Mr Gupta said.
He said, "All documents had been seized by the CBI in 2009 itself and Mr Raja had already been interrogated at the agency's headquarters several times in the past."

The CBI should not be awarded Mr Raja's custody just for the sake of interrogation, Mr Gupta said. "There has to be a justification for the same."

However, the judge gave the CBI custody of Mr Raja and the two others for five days.

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NMDC Q3 profit up 81% to Rs1,518 crore

Turnover for the third quarter of fiscal 2010-11 increased to Rs2,621 crore compared with Rs1,588 crore for corresponding period of the previous year, an increase of 65%

Public sector mineral exploration major NMDC has achieved commendable performance for the quarter ended 31 December 2010. These are the best results for the third quarter financial results since inception.

The turnover for the third quarter of financial year 2010-11 increased to Rs2,621 crore compared with Rs1,588 crore for corresponding period of the previous year, an increase of 65%. The turnover for the nine months ended 2010-11 increased to Rs7,599 crore from Rs4,256 crore in the year-ago period, a growth of 79%.

For the third quarter net profit, in comparison with that of the corresponding period of previous year, rose to Rs1,518 crore from Rs837 crore, a jump of 81%. The net profit for the nine months ended 2010-11 rose to Rs4,401 crore from Rs2,382 crore, an increase of 85%.

The board of directors has approved an interim dividend of Rs1.15 per equity share for the financial year 2010-11. The earnings per share (EPS) stood at Rs3.83 per share for the reporting quarter (compared to Rs2.11 for third quarter of 2009-10).

There was an improvement in its iron ore sales performance by 6.86 lakh tonnes
(4%) during the April-December 2010 period with a significant improvement in off-take by its domestic customers.

The domestic sales of iron ore increased by 12% where as exports fell by 40% as the company focussed on the needs of the domestic market.

The company has been pursuing all its expansion programmes and, as part of its forward integration programme and value-addition, has planned to set up a 3 MTPA steel plant at Nagarnar in Chhattisgarh, for which land acquisition has been completed in August 2010.

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GoM to look into ‘no go’ mining issue in a week’s time

Concerned over the shortage of coal being faced by the power sector, prime minister Manmohan Singh had recently directed the ministry of environment and forests to revisit the policy of 'no-go' mining areas

New Delhi: Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal today said a Group of Ministers (GoM) on coal will meet within a week to try and iron out the vexed issue of 'go' and 'no-go' areas in coal blocks, reports PTI.

"The GoM will meet in the next three-four days or within a week to deliberate on issues like 'go' and 'no-go', among others," Mr Jaiswal told reporters on the sidelines of an Assocham event here.

Last year, the environment ministry had prohibited mining in 'no-go' areas, where the forest cover is 30%. The 'no-go' classification disallowed mining in 203 blocks with the potential of producing 660 million tonnes of coal a year.

The coal exploited from these blocks could have been used to generate around 1.3 lakh MW of power per annum.

Mr Jaiswal, who was recently elevated to Cabinet status from being a junior minister with independent charge, however, said that he was unaware of the minister that will head the ministerial panel, the formation of which was approved by Cabinet last month.

"The main issues to be discussed at the meeting are in relation to the environment and forest issues with regard to the coal blocks, rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) policy and offtake, among others," Mr Jaiswal said.

Asked whether the 'no' and 'no-go' issue would be resolved before the forthcoming budget session of Parliament, which is slated to begin on 21st February, the minister answered in the affirmative.

Concerned over the shortage of coal being faced by the power sector, prime minister Manmohan Singh had recently directed the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to revisit the policy of 'no-go' mining areas.

During a 31st January meeting attended by power minister Sushil K Shinde and his counterparts from the environment and coal ministries, Mr Singh had reportedly expressed concern over the scarcity of coal, which has been impacting growth, and asked the MoEF to address the issue.

Despite being the third largest producer of coal in the world, India had to import 72 million tonnes to meet domestic demand last fiscal. According to the government's estimates, the requirement is likely to go up to 82 million tonnes in the current fiscal and to 142 million tonnes in the 2011-12 financial year.

Out of the total installed power generation capacity of 159,398MW in the country, almost 50% is based on coal.

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