New Delhi, Dec 13 The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed the third set of formal charges in the second generation (2G) spectrum allocation case Monday -- this time alleging criminal conspiracy and cheating by three firms and five people, including some promoters of the Essar group.
The document, running into 105 pages and over 22,000 annexures -- the second set of supplementary charges -- was filed by the agency in the special court hearing the case. It has asked for prosecution under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for alleged cheating and criminal conspiracy.
They were slapped charges related with offences only under the IPC as the CBI did not find enough evidence to prosecute them under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The three companies named in the documents are Essar Teleholdings, Loop Telecom and Loop Mobile India, while the five individuals are Essar Group's Anshuman Ruia, Ravikant Ruia and Vikas Saraf, and the promoters of Loop, Ishwari Prasad Khaitan and Kiran Khaitan.
With this, the number of individuals accused in the case rise to 19, while the companies against which charges have been framed add up to six.
The fresh set of charges alleged that Essar Group used Loop as a front company to acquire telecom licences in 2008. Essar, which already had a 33 percent stake in Vodafone, held substantial equity in Loop and thus violated telecom licence norms, the charge sheet said.
The licences to Loop were given during the tenure of former telecom minister A. Raja, who is in Tihar Jail under judicial custody as the prime accused in the case. The firm secured licences for 21 circles for some Rs.1,450 crore.
"The investigation has established that the said telecom private firm was an ineligible company to get the said licences being an associate company of another telecom group under a corporate veil," the probe agency said.
The Essar Group, however, denied any wrongdoing.
"Despite the government of India (the ministry of corporate affairs and ministry of law and Jjstice) having confirmed that there is no Clause 8 (of Unified Access Service Licensing) violation by the Essar Group, the CBI has proceeded with the charge sheet," a statement said.
"Essar has always maintained that it held only 2.15 percent in Loop during the time of the application and, therefore, there is no violation of clause 8," the statement said, referring to the clause that barred cross-holding beyond 10 percent.
Loop Telecom had started operations in 1995 as BPL Mobile, which was then promoted by the Nambiars. The shareholding underwent a change in 2005 after the acquisition of its ownership by the Khaitans. The name was also changed to Loop.
The charges Monday were filed in special CBI court, presided over by Judge O.P. Saini. The judge decided to examine the matter Dec 17 and then decide whether to take cognizance of the charges.
The probe agency filed the first set of charges April 2, also naming as accused Raja's former personal secretary R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura, Swan Telecom's Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka and Unitech Wireless' Sanjay Chandra.
It had also named as co-accused Reliance Group's Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, besides three companies -- Unitech Wireless, Swan Telecom and Reliance Telecom.
The first supplementary charge sheet April 25 then included Raja's DMK party colleague and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, Kalaignar TV's Sharad Kumar, Cineyug Film`s Karim Morani, and directors of Kusegaon, Asif Balwa and Rajeev B. Agarwal.
Among them, only Raja and Behura remain in judicial custody. The others have got bail.