The Enforcement Directorate has issued summons to corporate lobbyist Nira Radia for questioning in the Rs 70,000 crore 2G spectrum scandal allegedly involving Union telecommunications minister A. Raja.
ED sources said the summons was issued under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Radia has been told to appear before the sleuths either on October 17 or October 18.
The ED felt the need to question Radia as she seems to have not replied in detail to a written questionnaire investigators had dispatched to the PR consultant seeking details of her personal and company accounts. Her written response reached the ED offices around 10 days ago, an ED official confirmed.
The agency had asked Radia to explain the funding pattern of four companies, including the erstwhile budget carrier Magic Airlines and Noesis Strategic Consulting Services. Radia is believed to have stated in her reply that she was a British passport holder and there was no case registered against her as of now. She claimed that she had not even been booked by the CBI. The details she submitted did not satisfy the investigators, a senior ED official said. The agency therefore felt the need to question her further, he added.
Radia is the founder and promoter of Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, a leading communications consultancy which has clients that include some of India's top corporate giants. The ED has also submitted a report in a sealed cover to the Supreme Court as part of a third- party public interest litigation. The PIL states that the investigating agencies are not taking action against influential persons involved in the spectrum scandal.
The department of telecommunications ( DoT) under Raja had awarded 2G spectrum licences in 2008 at the prices prevailing in 2001. The government had merely got ` 9,014 crore for 122 spectrum licences, causing a loss of approximately ` 70,000 crore, according to some estimates.
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation ( CPIL) and another NGO named Telecom Watchdog had pointed out that the telecommunications department had changed the cut- off date arbitrarily to stop legitimate applicants from applying for a licence. The CPIL had also alleged that there were enough leads in the case but that the CBI was not acting upon the revelations because Raja belonged to the DMK, a party whose support was necessary for the government's survival. Other than the ED, the income- tax department as well as the CBI are investigating the spectrum scandal. The CBI had registered an FIR in October 2009 against unknown persons after the Central Vigilance Commission ( CVC) handed over the matter to the investigating agency. The ED's questioning could also be of use to the CBI, sources said.
The CBI has already acquired transcripts of telephone conversations allegedly between Radia, Raja and others intercepted by the income- tax ( I- T) department. Giving the status of the case, solicitor general Gopal Subramanium submitted before the Supreme Court on Friday that the agency would take at least six more months to come to any conclusion in the case. He said the CBI was coordinating with ED, IT and other departments to get to bottom of the scandal.
Earlier this year, Radia, who is believed to be out of the country, had courted controversy after details of a recorded conversation between her and journalists and politicians, including Raja, had been leaked by the media. The recorded conversations showed her proximity to many influential persons in the corridors of power.
About allegations that the CBI was dragging its feet because the trail was leading up to the minister himself, Subramanium told the court that the CBI had completed a scrutiny of documents and was now in the process of examining various persons linked to the scandal. The petitioners alleged that the CBI was going slow and not arresting anyone despite incriminating reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General's office, the I- T department and other agencies. The case will come up for hearing on October 22.