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Telcos’ properties to be attached

delhi Updated: Apr 28, 2011 01:02 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) will attach in the next two months properties worth R2,000 crore each of the companies facing probe in the 2G spectrum scam.

Presenting the ED’s status report before the Supreme Court, counsel KK Venugopal said the agency had issued showcause notices under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to several telecom companies under the money laundering probe. These include Swan Telecom, Reliance Telecom and Unitech Wireless, which were charged with forgery and corruption in the first CBI chargesheet filed on April 2.

An authority set up under the PMLA and the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) is ascertaining the number and worth of properties owned by these companies, as several are benami. The authority will decide whether the properties can be attached.

The bench said no court would entertain any application that could impede this adjudication process. This means that barring the SC, no court can entertain a challenge to the showcause notice.

However, the court said, once the adjudication procedure is over, the companies can avail of legal remedies available to them.

The ED stated that it was also probing the involvement of five foreign companies. All were registered in the Virgin Islands.

In addition, Venugopal apprised the court of a R4,000-crore FEMA violation complaint against the companies under probe. He gave details of various financial transactions, including that of arrested accused Shahid Balwa’s DB Realty.

After going through the ED’s report, the court remarked that the figures were getting multiplied with each status report. “Even the investigating officers must be flabbergasted,” it observed.

In reply, Venugopal said: “This sort of a thing has never happened in this country.” The ED also sought more time to complete its investigation, related to the allocation of spectrum during the period 2001-07.

The court, in turn, directed the I-T department to provide transcripts of the Niira Radia tapes to the CBI and ED.

Appearing for petitioner Centre for Public Interest Litigation, Prashant Bhushan said the CBI had failed to chargesheet the “big fish” such as Reliance Telecom chairman Anil Ambani, Essar Limited CEO Prashant Ruia and Tata Tele-services.