Mittal called to give evidence in India spectrum corruption trial

20 March 2013 | Kavit Majithia


Sunil Mittal, Bharti Airtel’s chairman, has been ordered to stand in front of an Indian court as part of the country’s telecoms corruption investigation.

Mittal is seen to be one of the most influential figures in Indian telecoms, and the billionaire is now required to give evidence regarding Airtel’s spectrum allocation, dating back to 2002.

Also ordered to appear in court are Ravi Ruia, billionaire and co-founder of the Essar Group, which sold its business to Vodafone for $5 billion in 2011, and ex Vodafone India head Asim Ghosh.

India’s anti corruption unit, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has spent four years examining the allegations of corruption in India’s mobile phone licence auction of 2008, and the case has severely damaged its telecoms industry reputation.

The country’s regulator cancelled over 100 licences last year, which were awarded to numerous companies, and the bureau is now investigating allegations dating back to the earliest days of India’s mobile market inception.

Airtel and predecessor companies to Vodafone were awarded spectrum by India’s previous government in 2002, and allegations have now emerged of wrongdoing.

Vodafone entered the Indian market in 2007 after acquiring 67% of the formerly known Hutchison Essar for $10.9 billion, before becoming Vodafone Essar.

CBI filed charges in December against three companies involved in the 2002 case, and they have now called upon high ranking executives, including Mittal, to provide evidence. He is due to appear in court on April 3 2013.

Airtel said in a statement: “We will fight this charge sheet against Bharti Airtel and Sunil Bharti Mittal…?a global leader associated with some of the best known institutions of the world and a brand ambassador for India."