New Delhi: As the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted searches at Kalaignar TV Pvt. Ltd in Chennai on Friday as part of investigations into alleged wrongdoing in the allocation of second-generation (2G) telecom spectrum, another phone company’s links to the television house came under scrutiny.
CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have begun examining the transfer of Rs100 crore from STel Pvt. Ltd, which got spectrum during former telecom minister A. Raja’s tenure. They allege that the money eventually went to Kalaignar TV, owned by persons close to the leadership of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a key ally of the Congress party in the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre. Raja is a member of the DMK, led by Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi.
The investigative agency is already pursuing links between Kalaignar TV and Swan Telecom, which got spectrum in 2008.
Highly placed CBI and ED officials allege STel’s money was transferred in late 2007 to Sripoorna Holdings Pvt. Ltd, from where it went to Kalaignar TV. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
STel, which got six licences in 2008, denied having any link with Kalaignar TV in an emailed response to queries.
“STel having paid Rs100 crore to Kalaignar TV is baseless, devoid of any merits, and is untrue. The fact of the matter is that STel paid a sum of Rs100 crore as an inter-corporate deposit to Sripoorna Holdings (a company owned and controlled by Chennai-based Udayar Group) for valid business purposes in October 2007,” it said. “In January 2008, Rs91 crore was returned to STel and the balance Rs9 crore was returned with interest in February 2009. V.K. Venkatachalam, director, Sripoorna Holdings, has also confirmed that this was only used for business purposes.”
Sripoorna could not be immediately reached for comment.
A court document reviewed by Mint said CBI has started investigations into another phone company, besides Swan, for favouring Kalaignar TV on a “quid pro quo” basis. The company wasn’t named in the court document.
CBI has been seeking seeking clarifications from Kalaignar TV chief executive officer Sharad Kumar over its involvement with telecom companies. Several telephone calls and text messages to Kumar, who owns 20% of the company, remained unanswered till press time. Kalaignar TV is mostly owned by Karunanidhi’s wife Dayalu Ammal and his daughter M.K. Kanimozhi, who is a member of the Rajya Sabha.
A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had said that STel received 2G spectrum in violation of telecom rules. This meant that “STel was ineligible to get the six unified access service licences from DoT (department of telecommunications)”, the report said.
Earlier this week, CBI had questioned STel chief financial officer Arun Madhana about the issue. The agency arrested Shahid Balwa, promoter of Swan Telecom, on 8 February after it found that he invested Rs214 crore in Kalaignar TV through another company of his, Cineyug Films. According to CBI, the funds were arranged by Cineyug Films from DB Realty group firms in which Balwa’s family members are directors and shareholders. Balwa was sent to jail on Friday for 14 days till the next hearing.
Nirajana Ramesh in Chennai also contributed to this story.