The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in its recent submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee probing the telecom spectrum allocation controversy, has linked Unitech’s “suspicious transaction” of $51 million (Rs 250 crore) in December 2007 to a possible quid pro quo payment to public servants in the licence case.
Real estate company Unitech is in a joint venture with Norwegian company Telenor for operating telecom services in India under the ‘Uninor’ brand name. The investigative agencies, including CBI and the Enforcement Directorate, have been probing the transaction of $51 mn from Unitech Ltd to the Switzerland-based bank account of Unitech Overseas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unitech Ltd in the Isle of Man, a tax haven. CBI told the JPC earlier this week the proximity of the investment of $51 mn and erosion of its entire worth indicated “a strong suspicion of the amounts having been paid as quid pro quo….” Unitech Overseas, according to the CBI probe, had invested the funds in a one-year yield enhancement certificate issued by Rabobank of the UK in January 2008.
Unitech managing director Sanjay Chandra, who was in judicial custody for several months in connection with the charges in the spectrum allocation case and is now out on bail, had issued a letter of comfort to Unitech Overseas without any board approval of Unitech Ltd “to make good the loss” of the company’s $51 mn investment in the UK, CBI told the JPC.
Unitech Overseas, according to the CBI probe, had invested the funds in a one-year yield enhancement certificate issued by Rabobank of the UK in January 2008. The investment was made without any capital guarantee and was linked to the performance of a Mauritius-based protected cell company (PCC) of Pluri Emerging Companies. Also, the investment was done on the basis of a comfort letter isuued by Unitech to Unitech Overseas Ltd, according to CBI.
On January 5, 2009, the investment in the certificate expired, raising CBI’s suspicion that the company used the money to gain favours from unknown public servants for allocation of a unified access service licence to Unitech Group companies, the agency has told the JPC.
To pursue the case, CBI also sent applications for letters rogatory to the Isle of Man in UK, Mauritius, France and Switzerland.
Unitech refused to comment, saying the case was being heard in court.
The Unitech group of companies applied for the telecom licence on September 24, 2007. Three months later, Unitech Wireless prepared their final demand draft of an entry fee for Rs 1,658 crore, according to CBI. The cutoff date of September 25, 2007, was notified on January 10, 2008 and on that date itself, a letter of intent for UAS licences were issued.
The CBI chargesheet in the 2G case named 14 people, including former telecom minister A Raja, bureaucrats, company executives and industrialists, who were sent to jail in the 2G case. They are all out on bail now.