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CBI raids Radia, Raja kin, NGO premises
New Delhi/Chennai, Dec 15 (IANS/PTI):
Published on 16 Dec. 2010 12:36 AM IST
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In a coordinated crackdown as part of the 2G spectrum scam probe, the CBI Wednesday raided 34 houses and offices of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, associates of former communications minister A. Raja and an NGO linked to DMK MP Kanimozhi here and in Tamil Nadu and seized “incriminating documents”, officials said.
As the government widened its inquiry into what is being described as India’s worst corruption scandal, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials also questioned Radia and Pradeep Baijal, a former head of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
There was no immediate reaction from Raja, the disgraced DMK leader, but Kanimozhi told a journalist that she was not aware of the CBI searches at the Chennai office of NGO Tamil Maiyam, where she is one of 10 directors.
“I have no knowledge of these raids. I have nothing to say,” Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, told TimesNow television channel.
Another key person raided in Chennai was Jegath Gaspar Raj, a Sri Lankan Tamil who has been close to the Tamil Tigers and Raja and who is managing trustee of the Tamil Maiyam. The NGO was founded in July 2002.
At the heart of the scandal are Raja, who is accused of causing huge losses to the exchequer by selling second generation spectrum at below market rates, and Radia, whose intercepted telephonic conversations showed her lobbying for Raja when a new government came in last year.
CBI Deputy Inspector General of Police Vinita Thakur told IANS that officials landed up at Radia’s plush Sainik Farms house in south Delhi as well as her office in the heart of the city in the morning.
“The raids started early today (Wednesday),” Thakur told IANS. “They will continue as long as needed. We hope to give out further details by evening.”
In all, 34 premises - seven in Delhi and 27 in Tamil Nadu - were raided, she said.CBI officials, acting on information provided by the Enforcement Directorate, also searched the house of Baijal in Noida, a Delhi suburb. Baijal became a director in Radia’s lobbying firm after retirement.
Official sources told IANS that the raids were ordered following specific information about key documents, many of which were seized. They said that many of the officials involved in the Tamil Nadu raids were from outside the state.
Also raided in Chennai were the house of a journalist with a leading Tamil magazine, a chartered accountant and an office belonging to Gaspar Raj.
A prominent DMK leader, Raja was forced to exit from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government last month over charges that he sold spectrum at rates that have caused huge losses to the exchequer.
The controversy hit the roof following the leak of a large number of Radia’s telephonic intercepts that showed her lobbying for Raja when the Congress was preparing to form a government in May last year.
Wednesday’s raids came days after parliament’s winter session ended in fiasco in the wake of opposition protests demanding a joint parliamentary probe into the spectrum scam. The government has rejected the demand.
Amid the raging storm over the Niira Radia tapes, corporate affairs minister Salman Khurshid said his ministry would hold discussions with other ministries to regulate corporate lobbying. “There is no law on this now. Today we do not have anything in the draft that is before Parliament. But we may have to find some other way of regulating it,” Khurshid told reporters here when asked if there is a move to ban or regulate corporate lobbying. When asked about Radia tapes, the minister said, he will have to take all the ministers for a view before moving forward.
Following the leakage of conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with politicians, corporates and media persons, which have stirred a hornets’ nest, Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata has moved the Supreme Court against the leakage of tapes involving him and corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and further publication of the same.
HDFC Chairman Deepak Parikh had also commented on telephone tapping and leakage of ‘private conversations’ saying that the morale of the industry has been hurt by such incidents.
Lobbying is a legitimate business in countries like the US. However it is not recognised in India in statutory or non-statutory form.
On the other hand, Diljeet Titus, senior partner of law firm Titus & Co, said, “Lobbying, which basically means influencing government decisions externally, could invite Prevention of Corruption Act and may also go against the service rules for bureaucrats”.
Lalit Bhasin, managing partner Bhasin & Co, said, “In the US lobbying is not only for corporates, but also for appointing judges. It is a flourishing industry there, a recognised mode of canvassing... In India, it is a developing phenomena like the Public Relations.”
He added that lobbying, which is an act of trying to influence government leaders, is not seen as good corporate practice in India.
When asked about Chennai-based Green House Promoters, a real estate company, owned by family of Sadiq Basha, a close aide of former Telecom Minister A Raja who was questioned by CBI regarding the 2G spectrum issue, Khurshid said the ministry has not yet received any complaint. “Somebody has to complain to us.”
On the Subhiksha Trading Services fiasco in which the Chennai-based retailer was forced to shut all its stores early last year after a cash crunch, Khurshid said they faced some legal complications on the issue.
“There are some legal complications and therefore we have to be guided by what the Court has said. Obviously we have a role and we will do that,” he said.
To a query on setting up of a National Company Law Tribunal, he said, “It is coming after the budget session”.
The National Company Law Tribunal was proposed in the 2002 amendment to the Companies Act.
Khurshid was here to participate in a seminar ‘Corporate Sustainability: The Driver of Innovation’ organised by industry body FICCI.

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