India's CBI investigating Bharti, Vodafone

Dylan Bushell-Embling
21 Nov 2011

India's Central Bureau of Investigation has raided the offices of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone in a probe into new allegations of spectrum allocation conspiracies.

The nation's peak investigator announced it has opened a case against three private mobile companies, as well as a former chairman and former secretary of telecom ministry, relating to 2G spectrum allocations between 2001 and 2007.

The CBI is investigating allegations that the officials conspired with the operators to allocate additional spectrum, against the advice of a technical committee, and to craft a charging policy that caused a loss to the government of around 5 billion rupees ($97.7 million) between 2001 and 2011.

The former telecom ministry officials are also accused of unfairly favoring the operators involved, as well as certain other telecom companies, in the allocations.

Spokespeople from Bharti Airtel and Vodafone confirmed to Bloomberg that their offices had been searched, but denied any suggestion they had acted contrary to laws and regulations.

The CBI probe comes in the middle of court hearings over the agency's investigation into another 2G spectrum scandal, this time into frequencies allocated in 2008.

A handful of telecom industry executives, as well as former communications minister Andimuthu Raja, are being prosecuted over claims they conspired to conduct a 2G allocation on a “first-come-first-serve” basis, rather than a more lucrative auction.

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