New Delhi: Indian authorities are investigating top mobile phone carrier Bharti Airtel Ltd under its money laundering and foreign exchange rules in what a company source said was a probe related to the grant of airwaves a decade ago.
Bharti shares fell as much as 5.15 during trade on Tuesday after junior finance minister S.S. Palanimanickam told parliament that the Enforcement Directorate was investigating the company. The shares pared most losses to close 1.2% down at Rs 304.15 apiece.
Indian mobile market leaders Bharti and Vodafone’s local unit are not involved in a massive scandal over alleged below-market-price sale of lucrative telecoms licences in 2008 that has rocked the once-booming sector. They are, however, being investigated over airwave grants during 2001 and 2002.
Bharti, controlled by India’s fifth-richest man Sunil Mittal, said in a statement it was cooperating with investigators. It did not give the reason for the investigation, but a company source told Reuters that it was related to the probe over airwave grants.
“Bharti Airtel maintains the highest standards of corporate governance and regulatory compliance ... We have already provided all relevant details asked for by the relevant authorities in this matter and will be happy to cooperate further,” Bharti said in the statement.
The minister, who was replying to questions from a lawmaker through a written statement, declined to give further details.
Last November, police conducted searches at offices of Bharti and Vodafone India seeking details of airwaves allocated to them in 2001 and 2002 by a government then led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), now in opposition.
The investigation is continuing and police are yet to file any formal charge against the companies. Both Bharti and Vodafone India have denied any wrongdoing.
Abhishek Vishnoi contributed to this story.