New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday questioned promoters of the Videocon group, Venugopal Dhoot and his brother and Rajya Sabha member Rajkumar Dhoot, over their alleged links with the so-called second-generation (2G) spectrum allocation scam.
India’s top investigating agency, which has also interrogated Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani and Essar Group chief executive Prashant Ruia in the alleged scandal, quizzed the Dhoot brothers until late in the evening at its headquarters in New Delhi, a CBI official said on condition of anonymity.
The brothers were questioned about the shareholding pattern of Datacom Solutions Pvt. Ltd, which was awarded 21 licences during spectrum allocation in 2008, the official said.
Datacom was initially owned by Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd (HFCL), but was renamed Videocon Telecommunications Ltd after the owners sold an equity stake to the Videocon group. It is now jointly owned by the Dhoots and HFCL promoter Mahendra Nahata. Videocon group owns a 64% stake in Datacom and the rest is held by Nahata.
“We were probing if Datacom was (a) front for Videocon group,” the CBI official said.
Another CBI official, who also did not want to be named, said the Dhoot brothers were confronted with several documents and officials of the department of telecommunication (DoT). “It is part of ongoing investigations in the case.”
A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report said Datacom made a false claim of paid-up capital of Rs150 crore, when documents attached with its applications for the licences showed the company’s authorized share capital was only Rs1 lakh.
“However, on 27 November 2007, the company (Datacom) suo motu submitted fresh MoA (memorandum of association) stating that they had inadvertently submitted the older version of MoA with the application,” the report said.
It added: “The new version of MoA claimed to have increased the authorized share capital from Rs1 lakh to Rs150 crore through an ordinary resolution passed in the extraordinary general meeting on 27 August 2007, the day preceding the date of submission of application by the company.”
The last date for submitting applications was 25 September 2007. DoT allotted the licences on a first-come-first-served basis. Unitech, now Uninor, Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd and STel Pvt. Ltd were among the companies that benefited from this policy.
Phone calls and an email sent to the Videocon group for comment were not answered.
CAG estimated that irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum and licences caused the government a notional loss of Rs1.76 trillion, while CBI put the loss at Rs22,000 crore.
CBI has arrested former telecom minister A. Raja, his then personal secretary R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura and promoter of DB Realty LtdShahid Balwa. All of them are in jail. The agency has also interrogated the executives of several real estate and telecom companies in the case.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Shourie failed to appear before the agency on Monday.
Shourie, as telecom minister in the BJP-led Central government in 1998-2004, had set the first-come-first-served policy for allotting licences. He was to be questioned about the policy as the Supreme Court has directed CBI to investigate all spectrum allocation from 2001 to 2007.