|The 2G money trail|
|Tuesday, 26 April 2011 00:00|
With its second chargesheet detailing how R200 crore was routed from Shahid Balwa’s DB Group to DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s wife and daughter’s Kalaignar TV, the CBI has moved one step closer to closing the loop in the 2G scam. Though it is strange the CBI chose not to name Karunanidhi’s wife Dayaluammal (who owns 60% of the channel) and chose to name just his daughter Kanimozhi and the channel’s managing director Sharad Kumar (who own 20% each of the shares of the channel), the chargesheet has details of how the money was transferred in several tranches between December 2008 and August 2009. The dates are also interesting.
Why would money be transferred in December 2008 when the licences were handed out in January 2008, for instance, is an obvious question that comes to mind. The CBI explains this by saying Swan got money for its stake sale to Etisalat in December 2008, implying R200 crore was the payoff for allowing Swan to sell part of its stake to Etisalat—since Trai had recommended that no M&A be allowed till companies had rolled out their networks, allowing the sale to Etisalat was a big favour that Raja did for the DB Group. While Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar have consistently been arguing this R200 crore was given for a stake sale to Cineyug and later returned with interest when there was a difference on the valuation, the CBI’s chargesheet says there was no agreement on the stake sale when the money was given, indeed the CBI says some of the other accused (Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal) have admitted it was an unsecured loan—why would an unsecured loan of R200 crore be given to Kalaignar anyway, and that too routed through three front companies (Dynamix Realty, Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables, and Cineyug Films)? Also, the CBI gives dates on when Kalaignar returned the money—after Raja was interrogated by the CBI. The CBI, of course, will have to prove there was no agreement as the accused will vehemently argue there was an agreement in place when the money was first given in December 2008.
The investigation, of course, still has a way to go, and there may be one or two more chargesheets. While the first chargesheet primarily focussed on just 35 licences issued to Swan and Unitech, the same charge of favouritism by changing the definition of First Come First Served (FCFS) applied to all 157 (122 to newcomers and 35 to dual-technology firms) licences issued by Raja. So the CBI still has to deal with other applicants who moved up the licence queue thanks to the change in FCFS. Nor do any of the chargesheets deal with the dual-technology licences and how some of these were given to 3 firms even before the policy was announced. The second chargesheet, however, is more substantial than the first.