A key question investigating agencies are examining is whether two of the biggest scams in this season of scams — the R1.76 lakh crore 2G spectrum scam and the housing loan scam, for which top bankers were arrested on Wednesday — are linked.
At least nine companies that were awarded telecom licences and 2G spectrum are not-so-well-known property developers, some of whom never had anything to do with telecom before.
Each of these companies furnished bank guarantees worth R1,600 crore in a matter of 45 minutes on January 10, 2008. Some of these real estate companies that got 2G licences neither had the required paid-up capital, nor had they incorporated telecom-related business in their memorandum of association. “If they didn’t have adequate paid-up capital, how could they organise so much money at such short notice,” an official who did not wish to be identified rhetorically asked Hindustan Times.
Did this money come from the housing loan scam unearthed by the CBI on Wednesday, in which officials of public sector banks and home loan companies dished out loans to ineligible real estate firms after allegedly accepting bribes.
The comptroller and auditor general has estimated that 2G spectrum was granted at throwaway prices, robbing the government of R176,000 crore of potential revenue.
These companies also didn’t satisfy the technical and financial eligibility conditions prescribed by the Department of Telecom.
In particular, investigators are examining the transactions of the DB group — a corporate group that investigators believe is promoted by a Maratha strongman — that holds a 45% stake in telecom company Etisalat DB.
DB Realty is among the major housing developers that seem to have received funds from housing finance companies, contravening existing norms.
Sources in the CBI said they are also looking into the possibility that investment firm Money Matters — three of whose executives, including chairman and managing director Rajesh Sharma, were arrested too along with the bankers — may have helped some companies raise money to get into the telecom sector.
“Everything is being probed. Was money loaned by the banks used to get telecom licenses or to invest in any of companies that were allocated 2G spectrum?” a CBI official told Hindustan Times.
Investigators are also examining if part of these funds were used to buy a stake in Swan Telecom.
Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd applied for a licence in March 2007 and was granted one in February 2008. It has changed its shareholding pattern at least four times since then.
Initially owned by Reliance Communications, it now belongs to a conglomerate whose largest holder, with 44.7% stake, is Etisalat, the UAE’s largest telecom company.
“DB Realty is a low-gearing company and its debt-equity ratio is 0.21,” a DB Group spokesperson told Hindustan Times in an emailed response.
“The company prefers private equity for project financing and takes minimum required construction loan. DB Realty does not have any direct or indirect shareholding in Etisalat DB Telecom Pvt Ltd or vice versa. DB Realty (has not given) any loan to Etisalat DB Telecom Pvt Ltd or vice versa.”