Reliance Communication says equity in Swan was within limits (Roundup)

August 10th, 2011 - 7:16 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 10 (IANS) Reliance Communications Wednesday told a special court here hearing the second generation (2G) spectrum allocation case that its holdings in Swan Telecom at the time of award of airwaves was well within the prescribed limits.

“No criminal case can be made out against Reliance Telecom. It held only 9.9 percent equity in Swan Telecom and that was much before it was granted spectrum-licence,” said Iqbal Chagla, counsel for the company, now renamed Reliance Communications.

“Swan Telecom cannot be held as an associate company of Reliance Telecom. It also did not have any say in deciding the board members,” counsel told the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court, presided over by Judge O.P. Saini.

The response was to the probe agency’s charge that Reliance Telecom had co-promoted Swan Telecom as a front company to get past the norms at that time, which made all existing service providers ineligible for fresh spectrum in their current areas of operation.

“The guideline only prohibited an existing telecom company from holding shares in excess of 10 percent in another telecom company. We initially held 9.9 percent stake in Swan, and no case is made out against us,” the defence counsel said.

He also took an example to say the probe agency was biased towards Reliance Telecom.

“Idea Cellular applied for licences for Mumbai in 2005. At that time, Aditya Birla Group had 20.74 percent equity shares of Idea. Then, the group also had over 99 percent equity in Aditya Birla Telcom,” said Chagla.

“Thus. Aditya Birla Group had substantial equity in both Idea and Aditya Birla Telcom. In this context, the group should have been rejected for a license. But no! It was granted the licence,” he said, and added his client also had no criminal intent.

“Even assuming everything is against myself. At worst, I allegedly filed an ineligible application. But that could have been rectified or rejected. There can’t be any charge of any corrupt act. No corrupt motive, no gain,” he said.

“Also, the allegations are contradictory to statements by a prosecution witnesses who confirmed Reliance was holding less than 10 percent stake in Swan from inception. DB Realty, in fact, took over Swan much before A. Raja became the telecom minister.”

The probe agency, in its charges before the court, had alleged that Reliance Telecom and three of its officials — Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara — had conspired with former telecom minister Raja and caused huge losses to the exchequer.

After Reliance Telecom concluded its arguments, Harshad Ponda, counsel for Doshi, resumed his arguments. Ponda said it was a usual practice for industrial houses to have investment arms.

“Having a shell company is nothing unusual. The CBI cannot allege that I am a part of a criminal conspiracy, and I cannot be booked under the Criminal Procedure Code,” he said, adding that when Swan was issued spectrum, Reliance Telecom had no share in it.

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