Bloomberg News

Former Minister Raja Granted Bail in India’s Biggest Graft Case

May 15, 2012

Former Indian telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja, the central figure in an allegedly corrupt sale of phone licenses that crippled the government, was granted bail after spending 15 months in prison.

Judge O.P. Saini, who is hearing the trial of Raja, business executives and government officials charged with colluding to benefit from the allocation of second-generation airwaves in 2008, ordered Raja’s release today on condition he surrender his passport and post a personal bond of 2 million rupees ($37,180). All the accused deny any wrongdoing.

Raja was the last of 14 charged in the case to be bailed, following the release of officials of Reliance ADA Group, Unitech Ltd. and DB Realty Ltd. The scandal triggered weeks of street protests last year and contributed to an 18-month slowdown in policy making by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government.

The Supreme Court in February canceled 122 licenses awarded in the sale to companies including Idea Cellular Ltd., and local partners of Norway’s Telenor ASA and Russia’s AFK Sistema. Scrapping the wireless permits, the nation’s top court said the 2008 sale was “flawed” and influenced by those with “money power.”

Raja was detained Feb. 2, 2011, on charges that he conspired to grant permits to unqualified companies for personal gain. He applied for bail this month, saying the case against him is “false and fabricated” and he sought parity with co- accused already freed from jail.

The nation’s chief auditor in 2010 reported that the sale of airwaves lacked transparency and that ineligible bidders had bought spectrum at “unbelievably low” prices. The auditor said the award may have deprived the exchequer of as much as $31 billion, sparking the nation’s biggest graft probe.

Three private companies -- Reliance Telecom Ltd., Unitech Wireless and Swan Telecom Pvt. -- are also among the accused.

To contact the reporters on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.net; Pratap Patnaik in New Delhi at ppatnaik2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hari Govind at hgovind@bloomberg.net


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