Shourie to appear before CBI over 2G scam (Roundup)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

NEW DELHI - Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Shourie, who was communications minister during the NDA rule, will Feb 21 appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that has deepened its probe into the 2G spectrum scam, to answer queries about the telecom policy initiated since 2001.

“Shourie will appear before the CBI Feb 21,” an official told IANS Sunday, adding that he was not summoned but the agency is seeking his “cooperation” in connection with the probe into alleged irregularities into the allotment of second generation telephony spectrum - billed as one of the biggest corruption cases in the country.

The official said the former minister would be asked questions about the policy of first-come-first-served basis for giving licences that was initiated by the then cabinet led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001. Shourie held the telecom portfolio from January 2003 to May 2004.

The CBI has approached Shourie for the its investigation into the Universal Access Service Licence (UASL) regime following a direction from the Supreme Court.

The agency, according to the official, wants to study the minutes of the meetings held by former telecom ministers, including late Pramod Mahajan, Shourie and Dayanidhi Maran.

According to the CBI, nearly 50 licences were given out on the first-come-first-served basis and Bharti, Vodafone and Idea were among the beneficiaries of the policy.

Shourie confirmed having received a call at his home when he was away. He said he has conveyed to the CBI that he will be appearing before it Feb 21 after he returns from Kolkata.

He said he would show them some “incriminating documents” and will also carry all the documents that “I wanted to hand over to the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh),” Shourie said.

The CBI call to Shourie comes after a Supreme Court direction asking the agency to widen its investigation and inquire how the telecom licences were issued by both the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government from 2001 to 2007.

Shourie on Thursday said he had “apprised (Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh and subsequently alerted the CBI” about the 2G spectrum corruption under former minister A. Raja who was forced to quit in November last over the scam.

The BJP leader also claimed that he even introduced a whistleblower to the CBI. Shourie said he “had asked the PM in 2009 if he could meet his principal secretary T.K.A. Nair to give the details”.

The 2G spectrum allotment in 2008 under minister Raja, now in CBI custody, has triggered a major controversy. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India, in its report submitted to parliament in November, put the notional loss to the public exchequer at as high as Rs.1.76 lakh crore.

In Mumbai, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the party was open for any probe “as we have nothing to hide”.

Prasad, however, differed with Shourie’s claim that he had told top party leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley about the 2G scam, just as he had told the prime minister but they were “not interested”.

“We raised this issue in the parliament and outside. What the BJP has done over this issue is for everybody to see. I disagree with Shourie’s comments,” Prasad told reporters, reacting to Shourie’s comment “that it is certainly my assessment that they were not interested in following these things”.

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