Thursday, April 29, 2010

India - Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched an investigation into allegations of money-laundering in the 2G spectrum allocation

[hndustan times] The 2G spectrum allocation scam, involving Telecommunications Minister A Raja surfaced once again on Wednesday, leading to noisy scenes in both Houses of Parliament.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched an investigation into allegations of money-laundering in the multi-crore-rupee 2G spectrum allocation scam of 2007.

The issue, which is already being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, caused disruptions in both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.

Fresh details are likely to provide more ammunition to Opposition parties to corner Telecom Minister A. Raja.

The ED is likely to approach the government to be able to seek help from the agencies abroad to find out if “some of the companies which won the licenses acted as fronts for foreign companies”, an official said.

The ED had lodged an FIR last month against “some officials of the Department of Telecom with other companies/private persons” for alleged violation of provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

“Some DoT officials with some companies/private persons appear to have proceeds of crime in their possession, therefore they appear to have contravened the provisions of the Act,” says the ED document sent to the government.

“The licences were issued at a very nominal rate based on prices fixed in the year 2001. The quantum of loss to the government because of the criminal conspiracy in which some companies benefited by offloading their shares abroad is estimated at Rs 22,000 crore.”

The 2G (second-generation) spectrum is a scarce natural resource essential for providing quality mobile telephony service and data services.

The controversy began with the CPM’s allegations of a Rs 60,000-crore scam in the allotment of 2G licences in November 2007. The Central Vigilance Commission told the CBI to probe the case in January 2008.

Documents show Raja ignored directions from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and dismissed the Law Ministry’s opinion that the matter be referred to an empowered group of ministers in November 2007.

On November 1, 2007, the then Law Minister H.R Bhardwaj asked for the setting up of an EGoM to examine the matter. This angered Raja. A day later, he wrote to the Prime Minister that the law minister’s suggestion was “out of context”.

On December 26, 2007, Raja wrote another letter to Singh saying he had received consent to proceed in the matter “from the external affairs minister and the solicitor-general.”

Singh acknowledged the letter on January 3, 2008, but did not say whether he endorsed the decision.

ED to probe 2G spectrum scam

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