The CBI on Thursday questioned former Isro Chairman G Madhavan Nair in connection with the case registered by the agency for probing alleged Rs 578-crore “wrongful” gain to a private multi-media company Devas by Antrix, the commercial arm of Isro.
Nair was summoned to the CBI headquarters here this morning and asked about the details of the contract signed between Antrix Corporation and Devas Multimedia Private Limited on January 28, 2005 during his tenure as chairman of Isro and Secretary, Department of Space.
The Antrix-Devas deal had seen early exit of Nair as Chairman of Isro as he was the Chairman of the Governing Council of Antrix when the deal was finalised.
CBI had registered a case last year and carried out searches at the premises of Devas Limited as well as the then Executive Director of Antrix K R Sridhara Murthi in Bengaluru.
An FIR was lodged against Murthi, M G Chandrasekhar and R Vishwanathan of Forge Advisors, Devas Multi-media Private Limited and unnamed officials of Antrix, Isro and Department of Space in a designated court in Bengaluru.
The agency has slapped 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) of Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of Prevention of Corruption Act against them.
It is alleged that the accused people had entered into a criminal conspiracy and the government officials abused their position by favouring Devas by giving them rights for delivery of videos, multimedia and information services to mobile phones using S-Band through GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A satellites and terrestrial systems in India.
The accused officials “thus caused wrongful gain of Rs 578 crore” to the private firm and its owners, CBI alleged.
CBI said that a deal between Antrix and Devas was fixed in principle in January 2005 for lease of S-Band transponders. However, the then Executive Director of Antrix signed it on behalf of Antrix six months later only after ensuring that Chandrashekhar and Vishwanathan were majority stakeholders in Devas multi-media. They continued in this position till 2008-09.
The change in the board, where a US company represented by Chandrashekar and Vishwanathan had majority stakes, was never verified by Antrix as the agreement had been in violation of Shankara Committee which had recommended execution of any such agreement with an Indian company only, it was contended.
CBI has alleged that when a proposal seeking budgetary CBI has alleged that when a proposal seeking budgetary support of Rs 269 crore for approving design, manufacture and launch of GSAT-6/INSAT-4E (PS1) was placed in the 104th meeting of the Space Commission on May 26, 2005, it was not informed that the agreement had already taken place with Devas Multimedia for leading out the S-Band.
“The approval of Space Commission was obtained by keeping it in dark,” CBI alleged in its FIR.
It alleged that on November 17, 2005 a note for the Cabinet was submitted for building the GSAT-6 satellite as earlier approved by the Space Commission.
“Information regarding the agreement between Antrix Corporation Limited and Devas Multimedia Limited was suppressed from the Cabinet and the wrong information regarding utilisation of satellite capacity was given to the Cabinet with respect to multiple expressions of interest though the agreement was signed with Devas Multimedia without any multiple expressions of interest. The proposal was approved by the Cabinet in December 2005,” it said.
CBI said in its FIR that after alleged omissions and commissions on the part of accused persons surfaced, the agreement dated January 28, 2005 was annulled by Antrix Corporation in accordance with the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh.
CBI has alleged that Devas with the intent to siphon off the amount from its bank accounts in India got a subsidiary named Devas USA incorporated in USA and a substantial part of the “wrongful” gain was remitted to Devas USA on the pretext of services, salaries etc.
“It is suspected that the illegal gratification was paid to the accused public servants from the amount remitted from India as motive or reward for taking the aforementioned favour,” the agency alleged.
ED is probing the financial transactions in the Antrix-Devas deal which included authenticity of a few Mauritius-based entities who had stakes in Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd.