Prosecutor says Ambani “hostile witness”

Indian prosecutors asked a judge on Thursday to declare business tycoon Anil Ambani a hostile witness after his court appearance relating to a corruption probe into the sale of telecom licences.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 22 Aug 2013, 7:19 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:15 PM

Ambani, who heads the Reliance ADA Group and is one of India’s richest men, lost a legal bid to postpone his appearance as a prosecution witness in the case, one of the biggest corruption scandals in India’s history.

Asked about various meetings and links between his company, Reliance Telecom, and others accused of wrongdoing, he replied frequently that he did “not recall” or “was not aware”.

Prosecutor U U Lalit told AFP: “We have asked the judge to declare Mr Ambani as a hostile witness”.

“The veracity of his testimony will be decided at the final stage of arguments.”

Three telecom firms — Reliance Telecom, Unitech Wireless and Swan — have been charged with corruption, as well as more than a dozen individuals, including three who worked in Ambani’s company.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors allege that the then-telecom minister A. Raja, also on trial, sold licences in 2008 at giveaway prices to favoured companies which paid bribes to secure sought-after second-generation (2G) bandwidth.

The national auditor calculated that the losses to the state were as high as $40 billion, but this figure is disputed by the government and some analysts.

Ambani was frequently asked about links between Reliance and Swan, which prosecutors allege was a front for his business.

“I am not aware,” he responded when asked if Reliance had invested in Swan.

When asked about the minutes of meetings at which he was allegedly present to discuss Swan’s finances, he replied: “I attend a large number of meetings, I don’t recall (each one).”

The small courtroom was packed with lawyers and media, with most of them forced to stand.

Ambani’s wife Tina has been summoned to give evidence on Friday.

The so-called “2G scam” in India has been immensely damaging for the ruling coalition led by the Congress party, which has been ensnared in a series of corruption scandals since its re-election in 2009.

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