Three weeks after the Supreme Court reprimanded the CBI for tardy progress in its probe into the 2G spectrum scam, the country’s premier investigative agency raided the residences of former telecom minister A. Raja, his relatives and five others in connection with their alleged roles in the scam.
But some officials privately doubted if the raids would yield anything substantive as the element of surprise was missing.
Early on Wednesday morning, about 80 CBI sleuths swooped down on 14 places in Delhi, Chennai and some other places in Tamil Nadu belonging to Raja, his former private secretary RK Chandolia, former DoT secretary Siddharth Behura, two former senior officials of the telecom commission K. Sridhara and AK Srivastava and Sadique Batcha, managing director of Green-house Exports, which is suspected to have helped launder part of the scam money.
“Searches conducted so far have yielded incriminating documents,” Vineeta Thakur, DIG, CBI, told reporters in Delhi.
Raja is accused of flouting rules and allocating 2G spectrum at rock bottom prices to a few favoured telecom companies.
This reportedly cost the country R1.76 lakh crore. Part of this money is believed to have been paid as bribes.
Reacting to the raids, DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi told reporters in Chennai: “We will take action without hesitation if Raja is found guilty. But he is not an accused till the CBI completes its probe and finds him guilty.”
The raids come 14 months after CBI registered a case relating to the 2G scam on October 21, 2009.
The investigative agency had even raided Srivastava’s office and the premises of various telecom operators shortly after registering the case last year, but did not ever call Raja or his key aide Chandolia. The latter was, however, questioned by the Enforcement Directorate on December 2.
This, the sources said, could have alerted Raja, who resigned as telecom minister on November 14, and his aides that they were under the scanner.
On Wednesday, the CBI also raided the houses of Raja’s brother, sister and father-in-law.
According to sources, the CBI is following money trail now. They are investigating the allegation that Batcha may have been used as a conduit to siphon off bribe money in the 2G scam.
Several of Raja’s relatives have large investments in Greenhouse Exports, Batcha’s company. In fact, the former telecom minister’s wife Parameshwari is its legal head.