Indian court clears suspects in $4.7bn 2G telecoms case

Indian court clears suspects in $4.7bn 2G telecoms case

A landmark case in India over 2G spectrum has seen a former telecoms minister and a clutch of other policymaker cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Former telecoms minister Andimuthu Raja and 17 others made up of politicians and telecoms executives were acquitted by a Central Bureau of Investigation into the allocation of 2G spectrum following a complex trial lasting more than six years.

Telecom players like Reliance Telecom, Swan Telecom, and the Tamil Nadu-based Unitech Wireless all had charges against them dropped, while Raja and his fellow DMK party member K Kanimozhi were acquitted.

The trial was based on 2G spectrum sales carried out almost a decade ago, in which Raja distributed spectrum on a first-come-first-serve basis. The allegation claimed he had undersold airwaves and taken bribes, causing economic damages from the scrappage of licences valued at $4.68 billion by CBI.

Swan Telecom, for example, acquired 13 regional licences for $270 million. It then sold a 45 per cent stake to Etisalat for $750 million. Telenor bought a 60% stake in Unitech Wireless after it paid $300 million in the auction.

In 2012, the Supreme Court scrapped 122 telecom licences which had been allocated on or after 10 January, 2008 over alleged foul play. The move disrupted the Indian market, with several players exiting the Indian market in the aftermath.

Judge OP Saini, ruling in a 1,500-page judgement at Dehli’s Patiala House court, said the prosecution had “miserably failed in proving charges.”

“There is no evidence on the record produced before the court indicating any criminality in the acts allegedly committed by the accused persons relating to fixation of cut-off date, manipulation of first-come first-served policy…” Saini ruled, according to reports from India.

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