India’s CBI charges former telecoms minister in 2G licence scandal

4 Apr 2011

India’s former telecommunication minister Andimuthu Raja has been charged with a number of offences related to the sale of Unified Access Service Licences (UASLs) and 2G spectrum in 2008, the Wall Street Journal reports. The country’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has, in addition to charges of cheating and forgery, accused Mr Raja of conspiracy, criminal misconduct and the abuse of an official position. ‘The investigation relating to the issuance of new Unified Access Services Licences and subsequent allocation of second-generation spectrum during 2008-2009, has established commission of offences punishable,’ the federal investigation body stated. Mr Raja, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the matter, has said he will contest the charges.

The CBI has been examining allegations that the 2008 sale of concessions was conducted at rates far below their actual value, due in part to the scarcity of 2G spectrum which was included as part of the licence awards. A number of other claims of impropriety during the sale have been made meanwhile, including that the bringing forward of the cut-off date for applications was designed to benefit specific companies. The CBI meanwhile also said that it estimated that lost revenues as a result of the artificially low price of the licences were around INR300 billion (USD6.7 billion); this is considerably lower than the INR1.77 trillion losses that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) claimed that resulted from the sale in its November 2010 report.