New Delhi: Shahid Balwa, managing director of Swan Telecom, claimed in court on Tuesday that he and his company were being unfairly targeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in their ongoing investigations into 2G spectrum allocation.
He further alleged that the CBI had purposefully covered up dubious behaviour by rival applicants Datacom and Tata Teleservices in a new line of argument that points the finger of blame directly at corporate competitors.
Majid Memon, lawyer for Balwa’s defence, produced a letter from Ratan Tata to former telecom minister A Raja referring to a donation that the Tata Trust had made toward a hospital in Raja’s constituency. The letter, dated 15 September, 2009, confirmed that a donation of Rs20 crore had been made by the Tata trust, said Memon. He quoted Tata’s letter saying, “We have never made a grant of this size in the trust’s history, it is a special case made after considerable deliberation.”
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Tata Sons denied Balwa’s allegation, saying the Rs20 crore grant was never given to the hospital in Perambalur
Balwa’s defence claimed that the donation was highly suspicious and asked trial judge O.P. Saini why CBI had not probed the issue further. “This is the easiest way to seek (Raja’s) favour,” he said. “To issue a cheque for donations to his projects.” By comparison, the defence claimed, the alleged money trail from Swan Telecom to Raja’s associates at Kalaignar TV was above board and accounted for.
CBI had claimed this money was in lieu of preferential treatment by Raja for Swan.
“If I, as it is alleged, had to pass on Rs200 crore, why not give such a cheque for donation to his charity,” Memon said on behalf of Balwa. “Am I such a fool that I don’t know how money can be given for a favour sought?”
Balwa also claimed that CBI had no evidence for alleging that Swan or Unitech had received prior knowledge of application deadlines or warning of dates on which bank guarantees and demand drafts would be needed. He pointed out that all 13 companies that were issued letters of intent had their financial documents in order on the same day.
“Should it be suggested that all 13 of us knew in advance?” he asked. “How is it that these other 12 are not charged?”
On the subject of queue jumping, Memon asked how Datacom had jumped so quickly up the order of seniority to file its application only a few minutes after Swan. “The CBI is trying to blame Swan for everything, but nobody speaks about Datacom though there are allegations by your own witnesses saying someone was trying to break into the queue,” he said. “There is something dubious about Datacom and CBI is trying to cover up for it.”
Menon persistently denied that Balwa had been “the blue-eyed baby” of Raja and his associates and said that, rather than being favoured, Swan had actually been given a harder time than many of the other operators in the allocation process. Balwa’s defence is due to conclude on Tuesday afternoon after he has answered CBI’s allegations regarding the company’s eligibility throughout the application process and the alleged payback of Rs200 crore to Raja via various proxy companies.