India police probing another ex-minister for telecoms graft

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 10, 2011 9:14 AM
India police probing another ex-minister for telecoms graft

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian federal police said on Monday they are formally investigating a former telecoms minister, his media mogul brother, and a Malaysian tycoon over their roles in a sprawling telecoms scandal that has damaged the government.

Police have raided the homes of former minister Dayanidhi Maran -- the second former telecoms minister to be probed -- his brother, television network owner Kalanithi Maran, searching for documents related to the 2006 sale of Indian phone company Aircel to Malaysian telecoms firm Maxis.

"There is a case of abuse of official position and battement for illegal gratification, bribes and illegal payment of money during his tenure as telecom minister," said a spokeswoman for the Indian federal police, known as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBS).

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh's second term has been hit by a series of graft scandals that have brought thousands onto the streets in protest and paralyzed policymaking, diverting his attention from nurturing economic growth and pushing forward reforms.

Dayanidhi Mara resigned from his post as textiles minister in July after police began looking into allegations that he made money from the sale when he was telecom minister.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

The case also names Malaysian tycoon Amanda Krishna, owner of Maxis (MC). Sun Network owner Kalanithi Mara allegedly took bribes from the Malaysian company, the CBS spokeswoman said.

"MC will continue to co-operate with the CBS in its investigation in full confidence that the allegations against it will prove to be unfounded and without basis," Maxis said in a statement.

One of those charged in the scandal is Mara's party colleague Andimuthu Raja, accused of taking bribes while telecoms minister in 2007-08 to favor some firms which wanted to buy mobile phone licenses. Raja is in jail pending trial.

Under-selling of licenses for kickbacks may have cost India $39 billion in revenue, as much as its annual defense budget, the state auditor has said. Mara is being investigated as part of a broader probe into wrongdoing over a decade.

(Reporting By Frank Jack Daniel; Additional reporting by Min Hun Fong in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)