Indian minister denies charges in telecom trial

NEW DELHI -India’s former telecom minister, who is accused of losing the country billions of dollars through the fraudulent sale of licences, began his defence in court on Monday by insisting he was innocent.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 25 Jul 2011, 4:01 PM

Last updated: Thu 21 May 2020, 12:16 PM

A. Raja, a southern politician who has been in custody since February 2, is on trial in a special court in New Delhi along with 15 others including company executives over the alleged corruption in 2008.
He is suspected of rigging rules for the sale of second-generation (2G) mobile phone licences to favour certain firms and is charged with abuse of power, cheating, forgery and criminal misconduct.
The fraud lost the country up to $40 billion in revenues, according to the national auditor. Prosecutors at the trial, which began in April, focused on losses identified by the police of around $6.7 billion.
Raja argued in court that all his actions had been in accordance with accepted government policy.
“If the policy pursued by me was wrong, then all former telecom ministers since 1993 should also be in jail with me,” said Raja’s counsel as he read out a statement in the sweltering court room where the air conditioning had failed.
Raja, wearing a white shirt, stood as his lawyer explained his defence.
The 47-year-old sold the licences on a first-come-first-served basis, as did previous telecom ministers, but he is alleged to have twisted the criteria to favour certain companies.
The national auditor said he should have auctioned the licences to the highest bidder in a transparent process that would have raised tens of billions of dollars more.
“I have done a lot of social good,” Raja’s statement said, explaining that he had helped kickstart India’s telecom revolution that has led to two-thirds of the country of 1.2-billion owning a mobile phone.
“There is no case because a case is dependent on witnesses and in this case there are no witnesses,” he added, saying that the decision to sell on a first-come-first-served basis was taken “collectively”.
“How can one man be prosecuted for a decision that was taken collectively?” said the statement.
The so-called “2G scam” has led to intense pressure on the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has also been tarnished by his alleged failure to prevent the scandal.

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