The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday carried out raids at the residences of former telecom minister A. Raja in Delhi and Chennai. Raids were also conducted at the premises of four other telecom officials, including his personal secretary R. K. Chandolia, in connection with the Rs 22,000 crore 2G spectrum scam.
The CBI sleuths began the searches in the wee hours of the morning in Delhi and Chennai at the residences of 47-year-old Raja, who was forced to resign as minister on November 14 following the CAG's report that the rates at which 2G spectrum was allotted resulted in a possible loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
Raids were also carried out at the residences of former telecom secretary Siddarth Behura, Chandolia, Member Telecom Commission K. Sridhar and Deputy Director General in the Department of Telecom A. K. Srivastava, CBI sources said.
Raja has been maintaining that he was ready for questioning by the CBI any time.
The CBI sources said that the former minister would also be questioned during the process of searches.
The Supreme Court had come down heavily on the CBI on November 22 for failing to question Raja and the Telecom Secretary in connection with the scam, saying it was "beating around the bush".
A bench of justices G. S. Singhvi and A. K. Ganguly wondered why the premier investigating agency failed to question the duo despite the CVC and CAG report sharply indicting them for their involvement.
"Any responsible person will question the involvement of the Minister and the Secretary and you (CBI) say that 8,000 documents have been examined. You are beating around the bush.
It was (questioning) minimum expected of the CBI. What do you take this court for," the bench had observed during the argument.
The residence of Behura, who became Telecom Secretary on January 1, 2008, was also searched. He was also asked questions about the licensing procedures.
Behura told the CBI that licenses were handed over on January 10, 2008 and that the decision had already been taken, a statement he made to Public Accounts Committee of Parliament on Tuesday as well.
The questioning of Raja comes within days after the CBI informing the Supreme Court that it had transcribed nearly 6,000 telephone calls involving corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, Raja and others during which a purported mention about the allocation of spectrum was also made.
Chandolia, who was sent back to his parent department - Indian Economic Services - within days of new Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal taking charge, has been quizzed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the issue of the first-come-first-served basis for the allocation of spectrum in 2008 after the cut off date for receiving applications was advanced by a week from October 1, 2007 to September 25.
Chandolia was personal secretary to Raja at the time of the controversial spectrum allocation in 2008.
Srivastava was heading the licensing division of the DoT when the licenses were issued.
The CBI had registered a case on October 21, 2009 against unknown Department of Telecom officials and private persons and companies for allegedly causing loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the exchequer.
The CBI has earlier searched offices of Wireless Planning Cell (WPC), the department responsible for allocating Spectrum, and the office of Deputy Director General (Access Services) of the Telecom Ministry to probe the allegations of connivance of officials with private companies in allocation of Spectrum.
It had also conducted searches in eight cities housing headquarters of various telecom firms in connection with its probe into the alleged scam.