New Delhi: The CBI on Thursday accused former telecom minister A Raja of causing a loss of Rs22,000 crore to the exchequer by favouring some telecom firms in award of the 2G spectrum licences and demanded his custody for five days, which a city court granted.
Raja, his former personal secretary RK Chandolia and former telecom secretary Siddartha Behura were produced before Special CBI Judge OP Saini a day after they were arrested in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
Wearing a grey safari suit, the 47-year-old DMK MP appeared cool and composed and greeted the judge with folded hands.
His counsel Ramesh Gupta sought time for a private conversation with Raja, which the judge allowed for ten minutes.
Seeking their custody, CBI counsel Akhilesh argued that Raja had caused a loss of Rs22,000 crores to the public exchequer by favouring some telecom firms in award of the 2G licences.
He said due to Raja, at least two telecom firms, including Swan Telecom and Unitech, were benefited to the tune of Rs700 crores by selling their stakes to various other global firms shortly after getting licences.
The CBI said the former minister’s custody was essential for further questioning because he had been evasive in replying to their queries during his interrogation earlier at the agency’s headquarters.
This is for the first time that the CBI is directly accusing Raja of complicity in the 2G scam after it had filed an FIR against unknown officials and private persons and companies on 21 October 2009.
Though the agency has pegged the loss at Rs22,000 crore based on the calculations made by the CVC, the CAG had in its report had projected a presumptive loss of Rs1.76 lakh crore.
The three were arrested for allegedly abusing their official position and favouring some telecos in grant of licences by manipulating the procedures.
Raja’s counsel strongly opposed the CBI plea saying his client was innocent and all the decisions with regard to granting of 2G spectrum licences had the approval of the Union Cabinet and various statutory panels.
“Accordingly, Raja was not solely responsible in the alleged scam,” Gupta contended.
He said, “All the documents had been seized by the CBI in 2009 itself and moreover Raja had already been interrogated at the agency’s headquarters several times in the past.”
The CBI should not be awarded Raja’s custody just for the sake of interrogation, Gupta said, adding, “There has to be a justification for the same.”
However, at the end of the arguments, the judge gave the CBI the custody of the three for five days.