Bloomberg News

Indian Court Rejects Plea for Phone-License Probe on Ambani

June 02, 2011

(Updates with share performance in sixth paragraph.)

June 2 (Bloomberg) -- An Indian court rejected pleas seeking to probe Reliance ADA Group Chairman Anil Ambani and the Tata Group related to the 2008 sale of mobile phone licenses.

Judge O.P. Saini dismissed applications filed by public interest litigators to investigate billionaire Ambani, Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, a public relations executive and a state politician in New Delhi today. The litigators were fined for filing “frivolous” petitions.

India’s federal investigators questioned Ambani, chairman of Reliance Communications Ltd., his group’s flagship company, for about two hours on Feb. 16 amid an investigation into the license award. The Central Bureau of Investigation sought information from Ambani amid allegations that his group received favors from former telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja, who is now on trial on charges he conspired to sell the permits at below-market rates.

The special court is hearing charges that Raja “entered into a conspiracy” with government and private company officials to award phone permits to ineligible companies. The sale lowered government income by more than 220 billion rupees ($4.9 billion), the CBI said, while India’s chief auditor put the potential loss at about $31 billion.

Reliance Communications, Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. and other companies owned by Ambani tumbled in Mumbai trading today. The Reliance ADA Group have denied any wrongdoing.

Share Plunge

Reliance Infrastructure, the builder of a mass rapid transport system in Mumbai, fell 4.7 percent, the most in more than three months, at the 3:30 p.m. close in Mumbai. Reliance Power Ltd. sank 2.7 percent, Reliance Capital Ltd. slid 2.7 percent, and Reliance Communications, India’s second-largest mobile-phone operator, dropped 4.3 percent.

Separately, CBI lawyer A.K. Singh said in court that there had been no irregularities in the allotment of licenses to Tata Teleservices Ltd., the group’s cellular telephony company.

Shares of Tata Teleservices Maharashtra Ltd., the listed unit, had their biggest gain in more than a month. The stock rose 6.5 percent to 17.3 rupees, the most since April 26.

Tony Jesudasan, a spokesman for the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, declined to comment when contacted by phone. Rajeev Narayan, a spokesman for Tata Teleservices, declined to comment in an e-mail.

Saini also rejected public interest pleas to probe the role played by public relations executive Niira Radia, the former chief minister of the state of Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi and his wife Dayalu Ammal.

Radia, whose firm represents the Tata Group, is being investigated by India’s tax department over allegations of money laundering, court documents show. Sudha Singh, executive director at Radia’s Vaishnavi Corporate Communications Pvt., said the company may issue a statement later today.

To contact the reporter on this story: PS Patnaik in New Delhi at ppatnaik2@bloomberg.net; Ketaki Gokhale in Mumbai at kgokhale@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Pradeep Kurup at pkurup3@bloomberg.net


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