Five businessmen, including Essar Tele Holding promoters Ravi Kant and Anshuman Ruia and Loop Telecom promoters Kiran and I P Khaitan, all acused in the 2G spectrum allocation case, were granted bail today by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court.
The court, however, charged the Ruias and Khaitan, along with Vikas Saraf, director-strategy, Essar Group, with crinimal conspiracy and cheating.
CBI accuses Ravi Kant Ruia and others of violating a rule that restricts companies from owning 10 per cent or more equity holding in competing telecom operators. The investigating agency, in its third chargesheet in the 2G case, alleged that Loop Telecom was an Essar Group company “under a corporate veil”.
|IN THE LOOP
A special court framed charges against five executives, including billionaire Ravi Ruia of the Essar conglomerate, on Friday, besides granting them bail. The case against them:
|* The Ruias owned 33% in Vodafone Essar (which was earlier known as Hutchison-Essar), which had a pan-India GSM operation. It was the country's third-largest mobile phone services operator
|* The Ruias, along with Vikas Saraf and the Khaitans, allegedly made “false representation” that they owned less than 10% in Loop Telecom Private Ltd, which also bid for 21 telecom licences. Under DoT guidelines, a telecom company cannot have more than 10% stake in another telco in the same circle
Anshuman Ruia is Essar Group chairman Shashi Ruia's son and vice-chairman Ravi Kant Ruia's nephew. Kiran Khaitan, wife of I P Khaitan, is the sister of Shashi Ruia and Ravi Kant Ruia.
Special CBI judge O P Saini named Saraf as the main accused in the case for making false representations to Department of Telecommunications (DoT) officials through employees among othe charges.
Ruias’ lawyer Mukul Rohatgi told reporters the accused would challenge the charges. Ravi Kant Ruia is expected to travel to Myanmar as part of an industry delegation during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to that country next week.
Saini fixed July 26 as the date to commence the trial against all the accused in the case, including three companies — Loop Telecom, Loop Mobile India and Essar Tele Holding.
All the five accused were present in the court today, and they looked relieved after hearing the order which came at around 3:30 pm. Saini, in his order, said Loop Telecom sourced the Rs 1,450 crore required for 2G entry fee from various companies belonging to the Essar Group.
Essar’s plea in the Supreme Court, challenging the jurisdiction of the special CBI court in conducting the trial, is expected to come up for hearing in July. If the apex court decides in favour of the Essar Group, then all orders by the special CBI court in this matter, including the framing of charges , will become null and void.
CBI in its chargesheet filed on December 12, 2011, said Loop Telecom had made fraudulent unified access service licence applications for 21 circles on September 3, 2007, which was a result of “the entire conspiracy to cheat the DoT through a fraudulent corporate veil, to hide the actual holding structure of Loop Telecom and Loop Mobile — erstwhile BPL Mobile, which was committed through Essar Teleholdings.”
Ravi Kant and Anshuman Ruia, along with Saraf, all belonging to the Essar group, remained directors on the board of Hutch Essar during the entire relevant period – 2004 to 2010 — and were looking after the telecom interests of the Essar Group in the joint venture and elsewhere, CBI alleged in the chargesheet.