A Raja Scandal
AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa on Wednesday said the transfer of Vineet Agarwal, the officer heading the CBI investigation into the Rs 1-lakh crore Spectrum scam allegedly involving Union Telecom Minister A Raja, shows that the UPA government has succumbed to the pressure from the DMK for giving the scandal a decent burial.
In a statement on Wednesday, she said the officer should be brought back to head the CBI’s investigation team and law be allowed to take its own course in the scam, which has caused loss to the exchequer to the extent of Rs 1,00,000 crore.
She demanded that Raja, who was indicted by the Central Vigilance Commission for flouting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s written directions on the sale of 2G spectrum, be sacked.
The former chief minister said the CBI made considerable headway in the case and its sleuths kept tabs on Raja and some of his associates like Neera Radia, the chief of Noesis Strategic Consulting Services, who used her links with the Union minister to obtain spectrum licenses for several new telecom operators.
“They have unearthed the links between Raja and the outfits like Swan Telecom and Unitech. They have also established the links between Neera Radia and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, who have ensured that Dayanidhi Maran was kept out of the telecom ministry. They have even discovered that these interested parties had agreed to construct a building for Karunanidhi’s family in Chennai as a payoff for the favour…,” she alleged.
Saying that the Congress-led UPA Government’s predicament was peculiar, Jayalalithaa said when the then IPL chairman Lalit Modi made charges about former minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor’s dubious involvement in IPL deals, the junior minister was sacrificed. “But when it comes to allies, the UPA is forced to submit to blackmail or be prepared to sacrifice power.’’
“The media, which showed its vigilance in the IPL scandal, and the people of this great nation should come forward and stop this national loot,’’ she noted.
Jayalalithaa said Opposition unity forced the government hand on Tharoor. “Though Tharoor’s guilt has not been proved yet, in the highest traditions of democracy, he had chosen to quit,’’ she remarked.
ED to probe 2G spectrum scam
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched an investigation into allegations of money-laundering in the multi-crore-rupee 2G spectrum allocation scam of 2007.
The issue, which is already being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, caused disruptions in both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.
Fresh details are likely to provide more ammunition to Opposition parties to corner Telecom Minister A. Raja.
The ED is likely to approach the government to be able to seek help from the agencies abroad to find out if “some of the companies which won the licenses acted as fronts for foreign companies”, an official said.
The ED had lodged an FIR last month against “some officials of the Department of Telecom with other companies/private persons” for alleged violation of provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
“Some DoT officials with some companies/private persons appear to have proceeds of crime in their possession, therefore they appear to have contravened the provisions of the Act,” says the ED document sent to the government.
“The licences were issued at a very nominal rate based on prices fixed in the year 2001. The quantum of loss to the government because of the criminal conspiracy in which some companies benefited by offloading their shares abroad is estimated at Rs 22,000 crore.”
The 2G (second-generation) spectrum is a scarce natural resource essential for providing quality mobile telephony service and data services.
The controversy began with the CPM’s allegations of a Rs 60,000-crore scam in the allotment of 2G licences in November 2007. The Central Vigilance Commission told the CBI to probe the case in January 2008.
Documents show Raja ignored directions from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and dismissed the Law Ministry’s opinion that the matter be referred to an empowered group of ministers in November 2007.
On November 1, 2007, the then Law Minister H.R Bhardwaj asked for the setting up of an EGoM to examine the matter. This angered Raja. A day later, he wrote to the Prime Minister that the law minister’s suggestion was “out of context”.
On December 26, 2007, Raja wrote another letter to Singh saying he had received consent to proceed in the matter “from the external affairs minister and the solicitor-general.”
Singh acknowledged the letter on January 3, 2008, but did not say whether he endorsed the decision.
Govt's revenues from 3G spectrum auction cross Rs 36,000 crore
The auction for 3G telephony seems to have entered the final phase with most of the circles, including Delhi and Mumbai, seeing either no or negative demand.
The auction, which entered its 16th day today, saw bid for all-India 3G telephony touch Rs 8,914 crore -- which assures the government of over Rs 36,000 crore in revenues.
Nine leading operators, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, RCom and Tatas, are in the fray to bag the spectrum. This, however, could not be ascertained that who all are in the final round of bids being conducted online.
According to information on the Department of Telecom's website, aggregate demand for Delhi, Mumbai and Maharashtra circles was two against three slots of spectrum on the block, meaning thereby the price may not go up further.
Although, as per the rules of auction, any operator can come back and bid for the above mentioned circles even if they have quit at some stage during the process.
Among individual circles, Mumbai's last bid stood at Rs 1,397.13 crore while that of Delhi was Rs 1,363 crore against the reserve price of Rs 320 crore for both service areas.
The government had estimated a revenue of Rs 35,000 crore from the sale of spectrum for both 3G as well as Broadband Wireless Access (BWA), for which the auction would begin two days after the 3G auction is through.
Telecom Minister A Raja had said yesterday that government's revenues may touch Rs 50,000-55,000 crore from auction of spectrum for both 3G and BWA.
On how long the auction could remain open, Raja had said: "Although it is difficult for anyone to forecast, but it seems now the true price could be discovered in another two-three days."
The successful bidders would be allotted air waves in September this year after the spectrum is vacated by the defence forces.
TAPPED and TRAPPED
J Gopikrishnan | New Delhi
Govt taps PR honcho’s phone, gets clinching evidence against Raja
The cat is finally out of the bag. The CBI has acquired clinching evidence showing that a high-profile woman public relations lobbyist acted as powerbroker in the mutli-crore 2G spectrum scam and that she was in regular touch with Telecom Minister A Raja.
The investigating agency unearthed damning evidence of wheeling-dealing in the spectrum scam by authorised tapping of telephones of several persons, including Nira Radia, who runs several public relations and consultancy companies — like Vaishnavi Corporate Consultants, Noesis Strategic Consulting Services, Vitcom Consulting and Neucom Consulting.
All these companies are filled with retired bureaucrats, who ostensibly lobby with the Government on behalf of different companies. Radia is an NRI, who landed in India in early 2000 for some liaison work for aviation companies. Of the nine companies that benefited from the dubious spectrum allocation by Raja, the CBI found that four companies were “serviced” by Radia.
Highly-placed sources said the CBI was denied permission by top authorities to interrogate Radia even though the telephone intercepts clearly exposed her role in the scam, which cost an estimated Rs 1,00,000 crore to the exchequer.
A communication between the Income Tax Department and the CBI shows that nine phone lines were tapped by the I-T Department’s investigation wing. The first phase
of 120 days of tapping started on August 20, 2008, and the second phase of 180 days on May 11, 2009.
Sources in the CBI said that in addition to Radia’s, the telephone lines of several other influential businessmen, politicians and advertising professionals were tapped for uncovering the extent of lobbying in the scam.
Sources said that the first-phase conversation tapping, lasting 120 days, exposed the parking of ill-gotten money from the spectrum scam in the form of real estates holdings, company shares and derivates within the country and in tax havens like Mauritius.
Documents available with The Pioneer show that Central Bureau of Investigation DIG Vineet Agarwal had on November 16, 2009, sought call detail records of Nira Radia from Director General of Income Tax (Investigation) Milap Jain. “It has been reliably learnt that certain middlemen, including one Ms Nira Radia of M/s Noesis Consultancy, were actively involved in the above-mentioned (spectrum scam) criminal conspiracy,” Agarwal’s letter to Jain, seeking the detailed call records, stated.
On November 20, 2009, as per Jain’s instructions, Joint Director of Income Tax Ashish Abrol provided the details of conversation between Radia and key players in the spectrum scam, including A Raja.
“There are some direct conversations between Ms Radia and the Telecom Minister. In some other conservations, Ms Radia boasts of having helped some of the telecom operators in their efforts to obtain licences/spectrums. Ms Radia has also been in regular touch with Shri Chandolia,” confirmed Abrol to the CBI. RK Chandolia was Raja’s private secretary during the time of spectrum allocation and has since been elevated as an economic adviser in the Department of Telecommunication.
“On the basis of specific information received from CBDT, the telephone lines of Ms Nira Radia and some of her associates were put under observation after obtaining permission from the Home Secretary,” Abrol wrote to Agarwal in a letter, marked “Strictly confidential and top secret”.
“The intercept provides the conversation of the target and associates indicating laundering and structured payoffs, transactions and liaison for projects of telecom, petroleum and also the media,” the I-T Department communication to the CBI stated.
Radia’s companies are involved in consulting in telecom, power, aviation and infrastructure. These entities not only managed the media but, as per the recorded conversations, apparently tried to influence policy changes and decisions of various Government departments to suit the commercial requirements of their clients, confirmed the Income Tax Department’s investigation wing to the CBI after analysing the telephone conservations.
“From these conversations, it appears that Ms Nira Radia might have had some role with regards to the award of telecom licences. In a conversation, she guided a new telecom operator on the need to delay the inflow of funds from the overseas investor and not to give the impression to the Government that there has been any ‘windfall’ profit,” the letter added.
In the conversation details available with The Pioneer, Radia was talking about arranging huge money from abroad for Unitech Wireless, which is a major beneficiary in the spectrum scam.
According to CBI sources, Radia got information about the agency’s moves against her from her vast network in the South and North Blocks and left for London in February to avoid arrest for criminal conspiracy in the spectrum scam.
“The detailed telephone transcripts of Radia clearly show how our politicians and bureaucrats were hand in glove with the corporates in looting the public exchequer,” a top CBI official said.
Ms. Nira Radia is the Niira Radia is Chairperson of Vaishnavi Corporate Communications and Director, Noesis Strategic Consulting Services.
Ms. Nira has been an entrepreneur for more than 25 years, with extensive consultancy experience in the Aviation, Travel, Tourism and the Communication industry.
She has conducted business with some of the most prestigious and leading brand names in the Aviation and Travel businesses besides a host of corporate companies. Her client list spans some of the world's largest aircraft leasing companies of which some are ILFC, Singapore Airlines and AAR. She has also worked with manufacturers and service providers, like AAR, Airbus and Venada Avtec, etc. She has represented various international and domestic airlines including SIA, KLMuk and Sahara Airlines.
She began her consultancy career in the filed of Aviation, Infrastructure and Telecommunications Projects. She is one of the few professionals in the country, who can boast of such wide depth of understanding and domain expertise in the area of Strategic Business Communications and the business environment in general. In the early 1990s, she identified India as an important business destination and decided to establish her base in India. Having advised the likes of Airbus and over the years and many projects later, she admirably executed one of her most well known business consulting mandates, as an advisor to the Singapore Airlines - Tata Consortium on the Air India divestment process. As a founder promoter to India's leading communications consultancy firm, Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, she has continued to be engaged with prestigious clients such as the Tata Group companies, the likes of TCS, Tata Steel, Tata Motors, VSNL, Tata Teleservices, Indian Hotels, Trent International, Titan, Sun Microsystems, ITC, GMR Frapport, Star Group, Nortel, Siemens, Kotak Mahindra, Invista Inc., HIAL, Channel V, eBay, Raymonds, Areva Power, CII, to name a few.
Under her direction the company has striven to enhance the value add to its clients and pioneered new areas of development. Whether it is specific issues which have short term implications on the client business or those that impact the long term objectives of the client, at each front she has consistently and significantly demonstrated and won accolades for her advisory contribution.
As an individual, complete in all aspects, she has always aspired to value add to whatever work she has been involved with, and to the lives of people who come in touch with her.
Other Directors of Noesis Strategic Consulting Services are"
Chief Executive Officer, Noesis Strategic Consulting Services
The asset called image
May 18, 2009, Business Today
Hard times teach tough lessons. With global icons tumbling from once exalted positions of power and prestige in the wake of the subprime crisis, a clear distinction is emerging between companies that made strategic communications central to their operations and those that did not. Much of the erosion in some companies’ reputations is doubtless deserved. But some of the good ones also got painted with the same brush as a result of a general disillusionment rubbing off on them. The ease with which speculations gain momentum shows how these companies are paying the price for having treated image management as a secondary issue.
Investing in and managing strategic communications is not an easy task. For one, it is often not even understood. Today’s communication challenge is not just about carpet-bombing the media with your message and stepping back. It is about establishing a trusted process of twoway communication with key stakeholders. It is a fact that today all businesses operate under conditions of non-stop scrutiny from an ever-expanding raft of media channels, regulators, employees, analysts, trade unions, governments, NGOs and even solitary bloggers.
The best strategic communication plans engage in continual dialogue with stakeholder groups that can affect public perceptions. A company must also learn to listen to these groups so that it can preempt conflicts by adjusting its systems in response to changing societal or regulatory circumstances, moods and needs. Doing this is time-consuming, expensive and operationally demanding. But it is as fundamental an investment in the future of any business as its capital investment programme. It would not be too ambitious to argue that maintaining and enhancing stakeholder relationships is one of the pillars upon which a company’s commercial activities rest.
While the media has traditionally been seen as the most significant of external influencers, in a globallyconnected age even defining “media” has become a daunting proposition. While editors remain powerful, you can no longer discount the potential impact of a solitary blogger or a research house that is operating on the other side of the world. For example, when an unfounded rumour seeps onto the Internet, it is often impossible to prevent it from diffusing unless large numbers of online supporters spontaneously mobilise to counter it on your behalf. Such public support can’t be turned on like a tap—it can only be earned through a gradual process of stakeholder engagement. It is only by building a workable rapport with each of your corporate or brand audiences that you can call upon their support or understanding when needed. Such was the case with the Nano. Scores of stakeholder groups needed to be directly and intensively engaged with before the current triumph of the car’s launch.
Since the ability to forge such a broad constituency of support is vital to ensure the success of any complex and high-profile project, CEOs across India are increasingly investing in proactive and comprehensive communication strategies. This integration of public relations and public affairs into the strategic operations of companies is yielding many benefits. Principal is companies’ ability to be better understood by regulators, the media, suppliers, shareholders, and the public at large, and their ability to foresee and avoid, or at least minimize, conflicts with these diverse stakeholder groups. This can only smoothen the path to development, the ultimate reward for those of us practising strategic communications in India.
http://businesstoday.intoday.in /content_mail.php?option=com_content&name=print&id= 11374
To save Cong-DMK ties, officer probing Raja scam transferred
J Gopikrishnan | New Delhi
Central Bureau of Investigation DIG Vineet Agarwal, the head of investigation into the controversial 2G spectrum allocation by Telecom Minister A Raja, has been packed off to his parent State cadre. A Maharashtra cadre officer, Agarwal was sent back on completion of his deputation tenure on March 31. This despite the fact that courts have regularly passed orders in favour of retaining the heads of investigation teams in sensitive cases like the fodder scam, Koda scam and others.
Incidentally, the Central Vigilance Commission — which is supervising the spectrum probe — has to date not even been officially communicated the decision taken by the Department of Personnel and Training, which comes under the Prime Minister.
Agarwal had become an eyesore for several key players in the spectrum scam after he unearthed clinching evidence to establish their complicity in the biggest scandal to hit the country in the recent past. Sources said Agarwal’s removal was part of a game plan to bury the truth in the spectrum scam.
Sources said CBI director Ashwani Kumar was summoned by the PMO in the last week of October 2009, soon after the CBI registered an FIR in the spectrum scam on the orders of the CVC. According to CBI sources, the director in the first meeting with the investigation team told the sleuths that the PMO had told him to ensure that “unnecessary embarrassment” was not created for the UPA Government in the course of inquiry. According to sources, the director was asked to consult a senior PMO official on “each and every step” of the investigation. Terming the spectrum case a “hot potato”, the director had told the investigation team to get his clearance before making any arrests in the case.
Within weeks of launching the probe, the CBI sleuths found gross irregularities in money flow into Swan Telecom, the major beneficiary in the spectrum scam. Along with the foreign investor Etisalat, Genex Exim (a small newly-created firm from Tamil Nadu) received Rs 380 crore worth of shares in Swan Telecom which, the CBI believes, was a kickback for the favouritism shown in the spectrum allocation.
This small firm was the front company for the Dubai-based conglomerate ETA Star Ascon, owned by the NRI tycoon Sayed Salahuddin, haling from Kilukarai in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu.
After questioning Swan’s (now known as Etisalat DB India) Shahid Balwa, the CBI had decided to question Sayed Salahuddin and sought clearance from a very senior official in the PMO. The NRI tycoon was visiting New Delhi between January 7 and 9 in connection with the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebration and it was during his stay in the Capital that the CBI wanted to grill him.
But the agency sleuths were asked to stay away from Salahuddin till March 13, sources said, on the ground that he was the contractor for the new Legislative Secretariat complex, which was to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 13. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was also to attend the function. Salahuddin is closely associated with the DMK-led Tamil Nadu Government and running a public insurance scheme through his Star Health Insurance. For the past four decades, most of the flyovers in Tamil Nadu were constructed by this NRI businessman. He was also the distributor for some films scripted by Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in the early 1970s.
The Genex Exim, which is termed an Indian investor by Swan, had transferred Rs 380 crore within 24 hours by routing the money through four destinations — Dubai, Mauritius, Chennai and Mumbai.
Agarwal was transferred from the CBI on March 31, a few days after the Prime Minister wrote to Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy that “it was premature to grant sanction to prosecute Raja as the CBI investigation is going on” in the spectrum scam.
Agarwal has been reportedly removed from the probe team because his line of investigation threatened to establish Raja’s direct links with the scam and create severe strain on the Congress-DMK ties.
On the directive of the CVC on October 15, 2009, the CBI took up the investigation in the spectrum scam on October 22 and raided the offices of the DoT and the beneficiary telecom companies. Since the investigation was proceeding under the supervision of the CVC, the CBI was expected to inform it of the case progress at regular intervals. But, according to sources, no such information has been filed by the CBI to the CVC to date, including the transfer of the probe team chief.