2G Spectrum Scam: Timeline of Raja’s dubious role

The 2G Spectrum Scam is once again in news with media reports of the phone conversation details of top corporate lobbyist Nira Radia establishes Telecom Minister A Raja’s dubious role in awarding telecom licenses at a price lower than the market price.

Canary Trap brings you this timeline of Raja’s dubious role in the entire issue.

May 16, 2007:

A Raja was appointed as the Minister for Communications in Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet.

August 28, 2007:

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) set out  detailed recommendations, primarily urging the government to determine the market prices of Spectrum licenses through a competitive mechanism, by auctioning to the highest qualified bidder.

August 28, 2007:

The Ministry of Communications, Department of Telecom (DoT), with A Raja as minister rejected the aforesaid TRAI recommendations; and insisted on following the earlier 2001 policy regarding pricing of Spectrum licences (i.e. licenses were to be allotted at fixed June 2001 licence fees, on a first-come-first served basis).

  • In 2001, there were only 4 million cellphone subscribers; whereas by 2007-2008, the number of cellphone subscribers was around 350 million. Thus by fixing license fees at 2001 prices, the Telecom Ministry enabled companies that were allotted licenses to command huge premia.

September 20-25, 2007:

Raja’s old cronies, notably Unitech, Loop, Datacomm, and Swan (all of whom had had dealings with certain companies floated by his family), applied for the 2G Spectrum licenses. Unitech and Swan  had no previous experience in the Telecom industry.

December 2007:

Two officers who had vigorously opposed the aforesaid DoT Policy (the Finance member and the Secretary of DoT) resigned/retired from government. The two others who had opposed undue favours to Swan were transferred. This cleared the way for an objection-free allotment to Raja’s cronies.

January 1-10, 2008:

Siddhartha Behura, Raja’s former Secretary in the Environment Ministry, was appointed Secretary of DoT. Ignoring Law Ministry notings urging that the matter be first vetted by a Group of Ministers, DoT issued its nine coveted licenses within 10 days (before Jan 10, 2008), mainly to the above mentioned four crony firms. This was done:

  • In the teeth of notings regarding revenue losses to the government
  • After unilaterally pre-poning the application deadline to September 25, 2007

September-October 2008:

  • Swan sold 45 percent of its shares to Etisalat (a United Arab Emirates company) for $900 million (in 2008 around Rs 4,200 crores). The company had obtained its license for Rs 1537 crores.
  • Unitech Wireless sold 60 percent of its shares to Telenor (a Norwegian company) for Rs 6,200 crores. Unitech had bought its only asset, the spectrum license, from DoT for Rs 1,661 crores.
  • Tata Teleservices sold 26 percent of its shares to DoCoMo (a Japanese company) for Rs 13,230 crores.
  • Based on the aforesaid sale of shares by Unitech and Swan, the market value of these 9 new 2G licenses amount to a total of Rs 70,022.42 crores, for which these 9 companies/conglomerates had paid DoT a total of Rs 10,772.68 crores.
  • Thus DoT lost the difference, amounting to Rs 59,249.74 crores. Thus, by selling these 9 licenses at the lower price Raja caused a loss in the range of Rs 60,000 crores to the Indian exchequer.

November 15, 2008:

The Chief Vigilance Commission issued a showcause notice to Raja. Thereafter, on the basis of his investigation, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner sent a detailed report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reiterating the demand for Raja’s prosecution.

October 21, 2009:

The CBI registered an FIR in the scam.

November 29, 2008, October 31, 2009, March 8, 2010, March 13, 2010:

Dr Subramaniam Swamy wrote to the PM, demanding sanction to prosecute Raja. In the last letter, he pointed out that the Supreme Court on March 12, 2010 (in the government’s SLP) had refused to interfere with the Delhi High Court’s two judgments quashing the government allocation of the 2G Spectrum.

March 19, 2010:

The Indian government’s Department of Personnel wrote to Swamy that it “would be premature to consider sanction for prosecution at this stage” because evidence collected still being “perused”.

April 12, 2010:

Swamy filed an instant Writ Petition with the Delhi High Court.

April 28, 2010:

Details of tapes establishing Raja’s dubious role in the scam surfaces in the media. Opposition parties demanded that the PM sack Raja.

Tapping, trapping and Telecom Scam

The recent IPL controversy and the subsequent resignation by former Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor has exposed the double standards of the UPA Government. While Tharoor was made to resign over allegations of committing financial impropriety, no action has been taken against the architect of one of the biggest scams in the Indian history.

Despite mounting evidence against Telecom Minister A Raja about his controversial role in allocation of 2G spectrum to firms at a price much below the market price, the UPA government appears to be shielding him. Raja’s decision to grant new licenses resulted in a loss of around Rs 60,000 crores to the national exchequer.

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) issued a showcause notice to Raja in November 2008. It also demanded his prosecution in the case. Following this, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered an FIR on October 21, 2009 under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The agency is investigating allegations into criminal conspiracy between certain public servants and private individuals in granting of these licenses in 2007-2008.

The role of certain middlemen, including Nira Radia, who according to the CBI were actively involved in this criminal conspiracy, came under the scanner of the agency. As a part of the investigation the agency sought information from the Directorate General of Income Tax about the middlemen, including Radia, an influential lobbyist who runs an communications consulting firm called Vaishnavi Communications. She also runs Noesis Consulting, Vitcom and Neucom Consulting. Noesis comprises of retired bureaucrats and is involved in consulting in various sectors like Telecom, Power, Aviation, and Infrastructure.

The phones of Nira Radia and her associates were placed under surveillance by the Finance and Home Ministry for a period of 120 days in 2008 and 180 days in 2009. The intercepted calls pointed towards collusion between Radia, certain officials of the Telecom Ministry, and some telecom operators. It also suggests that a large number of confidential documents and policy papers found its way to Radia.

Documents available with Canary Trap reveal that CBI DIG Vineet Agarwal had sought call detail records  of Nira Radia and some other middlemen from Directorate General of Income Tax through a letter on November 16, 2009. The details that emerged from that call records are simply shocking.

1. The telecom intercepts suggest that Radia had a role in managing policy changes at the highest levels of government, including those leading to the award to telecom license to Unitech Wireless, Swan Telecom, Aircel, and Datacom.

  • Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd. bagged an allotment of licenses in 13 circles worth Rs 1537 crore. Within weeks of bagging the licenses, the company sold 45 percent stake to Etisalat (UAE company) for Rs 4500 crore.
  • Unitech got licenses for 22 circles for Rs 1651 crore. It later sold them to a Telenor (Norwegian company) at a whopping sum of Rs 6120 crore. Unitech had applied for licenses in several names (Unitech Infrastructure, Unitech Builders and Estates, Aska Projects, Naham Properties, Hudson Properties, Volga Properties, Adonis Projects and Azare Properties among them). They merged all their licenses when Raja signed a dubious notification allowing this to happen. This paved the way for a foreign firm, widely operating in Pakistan and Bangladesh, to enter the Indian telecom industry. This clearly exposes UPA government’s lax attitude towards national security.

2. Some conversations suggest that Telecom Minister A Raja and Radia too have equity interest in Swan Telecom.

3. The intercepted calls also exposed the extent of lobbying done for ministerial berths and the helplessness of none other than the Prime Minister in preventing corrupt people from occupying high offices. The recorded conversations reveals that a top businessman, with interests in various sectors besides telecom, wanted to prevent Dayanidhi Maran from becoming the Telecom Minister. Whereas, another top businessman with primary interest in telecom, was lobbying to prevent Raja from becoming the Telecom Minister.

  • Given Raja’s dubious record, it seemed unlikely that the PM would have accommodated him in his cabinet again after winning the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. But Raja not only made it to the cabinet, he also got the Telecom Ministry. According to some conversations, two top news editors (one a Padma Sri awardee, and another who also does lifestyle TV shows) lobbied with the Congress leaders on behalf of Radia to get ministerial berths for DMK MPs, especially Raja.

4. Another conversation between Radia and Unitech’s Ajay Chandra relates to the sale of equity by United to Telenor as a higher price, thus making huge profits. The discussion is about the government’s investigation into the telecom license issue. According to an internal investigation report, the crux of the conversation is to stagger the inflow of funds and to give an impression to the government that the funds have come only into the telecom company and there is no windfall gain to the promoters of Unitech.

5. The phone tapping exercise also revealed that Radia is spreading business connections to Africa, including investments in Guinea and Senegal through Global Minerals.

6. The conversations of Radia and her associates also suggest their role in laundering and structured payoffs, and liaisoning for telecom and power projects.

The CBI inquiry so far has put the government on the back foot. As a result, the man who was leading the investigations into the scam was transferred. So, is the removal of Vineet Agarwal a part of the government’s efforts to bury the inconvenient facts that has emerged from the inquiry till now?

CBDT reacts on phone tapping

Meanwhile, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has issued a clarification on interception of telephonic conversations of the above mentioned individuals. Take a look:

“A section of the media has reported communication between the Income Tax department and the Central Bureau of Investigation regarding records of telephonic conversations between a person by the name of Nira Radia and others. It is also reported, citing sources in the CBI, that in addition to Radia, telephone lines of several other influential business-men, politicians and advertising professionals were tapped.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has clarified that the Income Tax department has not recorded any telephone conversation of influential businessmen, politicians and advertising professionals as alleged.

It is further clarified that the Income Tax department does not intercept telephonic conversations except as authorised under the law. The provision is used in rare and exceptional cases of suspected tax fraud / evasion involving security of the state. The procedure, as prescribed under the law, is strictly followed in all such cases.” (BY/KP/GN-150/10 – April 28, 2010)

China steals India’s secret documents: Report

A Chinese cyber espionage system has systematically stolen data from government, business, academic, and other computer network systems in India, the Offices of the Dalai Lama, the United Nations, and several other countries, a report stated.

The joint report, Shadows in the Cloud: Investigating Cyber Espionage 2.0, is the result of a collaborative investigation by the Information Warfare Monitor and Shadowserver Foundation.

The recovered data that was stolen from sensitive locations in India was analyzed by the researchers. One of the document was an encrypted diplomatic correspondence. Other documents belonging to the Indian government included two marked as “SECRET”, six as “RESTRICTED”, and five as “CONFIDENTIAL”. These documents are:

  • Sensitive information taken from a member of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) concerning secret assessments of India’s security situation in the states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura, as well as concerning the Naxalites and Maoists.
  • Confidential information from Indian embassies regarding India’s international relations with and assessments of activities in West Africa, Russia/Commonwealth of Independent States and the Middle East, as well as visa applications, passport office circulars and diplomatic correspondence.
  • A variety of military computers had been compromised as well as the computers of defence-oriented academics and journals. Documents and presentations relating to Pechora Missile System (An anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile system), Iron Dome Missile System (A mobile missile defence system – Ratzlav-Katz 2010), and Project Shakti (An artillery combat command and control system – Frontier India 2009) were recovered.

The recovered documents also included 1500 letters sent from the Dalai Lama’s office between January and November 2009.

The sensitive information that was stolen from the Indian computers as mentioned in the report include:

1. National Security Council Secretariat: According to the report, a computer at the NSCS was compromise. It says that during the period in which the researchers monitored the attackers, 14 documents (two marked “SECRET”), were exfiltrated.

“In addition to documents containing the personal and financial information of what appears to be the compromised individual, the exfiltrated documents focus on India’s security situation in the states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura as well as the Naxalites, Maoists, and what is referred to as Left wing extremism,” the report states.

2. India’s Diplomatic Missions: The report states that computers at the Embassy of India, Kabul, the Embassy of India, Moscow, the Consulate General of India, Dubai, and the High Commission of India in Abuja, Nigeria were compromised based on the documents exfiltrated by the attackers. During the period in which the researchers monitored the attackers, 99 documents (1 encrypted diplomatic correspondence, 5 documents marked “RESTRICTED”, and 4 documents marked “CONFIDENTIAL”) were exfiltrated.

Documents containing personal, financial, and travel information on embassy and diplomatic staff, and numerous visa applications, passport office circulars, and country assessments and reports were exfiltrated. Confidential visa applications from citizens of Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, the PRC, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Philippines, Senegal, Switzerland, Uganda, and the United Kingdom were also among the exfiltrated documents.

3. Military Engineer Services: Computers at the MES-Bengdubi, MES-Kolkata, MES(AF)-Bangalore, and MES-Jalandhar were compromised based on the documents exfiltrated by the attackers, the report states. During the period in which the researchers monitored the attackers, 78 documents were exfiltrated. While these documents included manuals and forms that would not be considered sensitive, they also included documents that contained private information on personnel, and documents and presentations concerning the financing and scheduling of specific engineering projects.

4. Military Personnel: According to the report, computers linked with the 21 Mountain Artillery Brigade (Assam), the air force Stations  (Race Course in New Delhi and Darjipura in Vadodara) were compromised based on the documents exfiltrated by the attackers. During the period in which the researchers monitored the attackers, sixteen documents were exfiltrated. One document contained personal information on Saikorian alumni of the Sainik School, Korukonda, which prepares students for entry into the National Defence Academy. One document is a detailed briefing on a live fire exercise while others pertain to surface-to-air missile systems and moving target indicators.

5. Military Educational Institutions: Computers at the Army Institute of Technology in Pune and the Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering in Secunderabad were compromised, the report said. During the period in which the attackers were monitored, 21documents (1 marked “RESTRICTED”) were exfiltrated.  A document that describes Project Shakti, the Indian Army’s command and control system for artillery, was also exfiltrated.

6. Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses: The computers at IDSA were compromised and while monitoring the attackers the researchers found that 187 documents were exfiltrated. While many of the documents were published papers from a variety of academic sources, there were internal documents, such as an overview of the IDSA research agenda, minutes of meetings for the Journal of Defence Studies, budgets and information on a variety of speakers, visitors, and conference participants.

7. Defence publications: The computers at the Force magazine were compromised and 58 documents were exfiltrated. These documents include publicly accessible articles and previous drafts of those articles. There is also private information regarding the contact details of subscribers and conference participants. The documents also include interviews and PowerPoint presentations from conferences that detail national security topics such as network data and monitoring for national security, and responses to combat cyber threats.

8. Maritime: A total of 53 documents were exfiltrated from the computers at the National Maritime Foundation and the Gujarat Chemical Port Terminal Company Limited. These documents include a summary of a seminar as well as numerous documents relating to specific shipping schedules, financial matters and personal medical information.

9. Indian Corporations: Documents from computers at YKK India Private Limited, DLF Limited, and TATA were also exfiltrated, the report added. These documents include rules overseeing business travel, a presentation on roadmap and financial status, and an annual plan for a business partnership.

Uma Bharti to join BJP very soon

The Nitin Gadkari-led Bhartiya Janata Party is making all efforts to re-induct senior estranged leaders who are out of the party for various reasons.

Sources have told Canary Trap that the first one to be inducted in the most near future is senior leader and former Madhya Pradesh CM Uma Bharti. Bharati recently quit her own party (Bharatiya Janashakti – BJS), which she had founded after being expelled from the BJP in 2005.

Gadkari had declared after taking over the rein of the party that he would hold internal consolations in the party before taking back estranged leaders.

In Bharti’s case, sources say, all the issues have been cleared. Initially there was opposition to her re-induction from RSS leader Suresh Soni. Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his supporters were also not happy with the move and so was party’s Rajya Sabha MP and in-charge of Madhya Pradesh Prabhat Jha. In Delhi, even Arun Jaitley was not very enthusiastic about the move to take back Bharti. But there was some support for the former MP chief minister in the RSS and even senior leader L K Advani was not averse to having her back in the party.

According to party sources, all the issues have been resolved and a final go ahead has been given for the re-induction of Uma Bharti.

And it’s not just Bharti who would join the party soon. The BJP is considering the names of a host of former leaders who they think should be re-inducted into the party. They include:

1. Kalyan Singh: Thrice the chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh left the BJP for the first time in 1999. He again joined the party in January 2004 and also served as its vice president. But he resigned in January 2009 and decided to campaign for the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. His son joined the SP and later resigned from the party after relations soured between Kalyan Singh and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav.

In January 2010 Kalyan formed Jan Kranti Party. Kalyan Singh’s re-entry in the party at the moment seems less likely as there is strong opposition to the possibility of his re-induction from the UP BJP leaders. Even former party President Rajnath Singh and his supporters are opposed to the move of bringing him back.

Sources say his re-entry in the party at the moment is on hold but if issues are sorted out in future, he may again join the party.

2. Sanjay Joshi: BJP workers say if there is one man who can take on Narendra Modi, then it is Sanjay Joshi. He is known and admired for his organisational skills, both in the BJP and RSS.

Joshi has served as the party General Secretary (Organisation) during the tenure of M Venkaiah Naidu and L K Advani. But he had been lying low after a sex CD involving him surfaced in the public domain in November 2005.

There has been a lot of talk about attempts to re-induct Joshi after RSS-backed Nitin Gadkari took over as the BJP President. Sources say that L K Advani has taken a very strong stand against giving him a position in the party organisation. The RSS does not seem to have any issues with Joshi’s inclusion in the party and he has support from senior leader like M G Vaidhya.

According to sources Joshi’s inclusion in the party will take time but it will certainly happen in the future.

3. Babulal Marandi: He was the first CM of Jharkhand and has held the post of BJP vice president. Marandi was also a Minister of State (Forests & Environment) during the NDA government.

He resigned from the party in 2006 following his open criticism of the BJP-led state government in Jharkhand. He then floated a political outfit named Jharkhand Vikas Morcha.

The party is keen to take back Marandi, but so far they have not succeeded. Sources say the former Jharkhand CM has repeatedly rejected the party’s overtures to re-induct him.

4. Madanlal Khurana: Khurana was expelled from the party in August 2005 for publicly criticizing then party president L K Advani. He was taken back into the party in September 2005 after he apologized for his remarks. But, in March 2006, he was again expelled from the party for his anti-party statements.

Khurana served as a Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Tourism in the Vajpayee government. He was also the Governor of Rajasthan from January 14, 2004 to October 28, 2004. He then joined Bharatiya Janashakti (launched by Uma Bharti) and left it after some time.

At the moment there is no opposition to the re-induction of Khurana in the party. Sources say he may be taken back in the near future.