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CBI quizzes Rel Info, DoT staff on call re-routing

Some of the officials of DoT were also summoned by the CBI to explore the possibility of their alleged connivance with the RIL group.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2006 18:09 IST

After completing all paper work, the CBI has begun quizzing executives and officials of Reliance Infocomm and Department of Telecom in connection with the alleged masquerading of international phone calls as local ones by the former to avoid payment of a fee, which initial estimates suggest caused Rs 50 crore loss to the exchequer.

CBI sources said Reliance Infocomm CEO in Chennai Som Sundaram was summoned to the investigating agency's office and asked about the process of functioning of Reliance phones.

They said Reliance executives, who failed to appear before the agency on the first date, were called again for questioning after the screening of the files was completed by by the Economic Offences wing of the agency's Chennai branch.

After registering the Preliminary Enquiry on September 15 last year, CBI had secured all files related to the case from DoT. It has so far estimated a loss of Rs 50 crore to the exchequer and the figure could go beyond it, they said.

Some of the officials of DoT were also summoned by the agency to explore the possibility of their alleged connivance with the Reliance group.

CBI, in its PE against un-nammed officials of Reliance and DoT, had alleged that the telecom giant had manipulated Caller Line Identification (CLI) system for international calls and routed them as local calls.

The CBI, to which the case was referred to by Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), is also likely to question some top executives of the Reliance group, who were in-charge of the telcommunication section before the division of property in Ambani family.

Anil Ambani got Reliance Infocomm as part of an ownership settlement of the Reliance empire reached in June last year with his brother Mukesh, who headed the private telecom giant prior to the split.

The Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), while imposing a penalty of Rs 150 crore on Reliance Infocomm for allegedly breaching the license conditions, had also said in its order that this breach has put the "security of the nation in jeopardy."

The alleged re-routing of calls were done with a view to avoid payment of a fee called Access Deficit Charge, which private telecom operators are supposed to pay telecom PSUs to offset their unremunerative services in rural areas.

Before the CVC handed over the case to CBI, the agency had already stumbled upon a nexus between some private telecom companies and DoT officials during its probe into illegal telephone exchanges that were unearthed in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh as part of a special drive recently.

The agency sources claimed that telephone cards were circulated in the US and Canada, where they were offering calls to India at 80 to 82 cents per minute.

Sources said the cards were being made available for evidence on record, but if a formal case was to be registered, an overseas probe was needed.

First Published: Feb 02, 2006 18:09 IST