CBI arrests Raja, two aides


New Delhi : DMK leader A. Raja was arrested here Wednesday for his alleged role in the controversial allocation of airwaves for second generation (2G) telecom services, three months after he was forced to resign as communications minister.

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested him and two of his aides on primarily two counts — misuse of office in allocation of spectrum and amassing wealth much higher than the known and legal sources of their income.

The two aides are former telecom secretary Siddartha Behura and Raja’s personal secretary R.K. Chandolia.

Sources in the probe agency said that those arrested will be taken to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital for a medical check-up after the formal arrest, and before the next round of questioning.

“I would say this is the end of the beginning,” Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy told reporters, reacting to Raja’s arrest, It would have been embarrassing otherwise for the CBI to face the apex court later this week, he added.

Swamy’s petition on the 2G allocation — which names Raja as an accused in what is now being called the 2G spectrum scam — is to come up for hearing before the Supreme Court next week.

The apex court is itself monitoring the multi-agency probe into the irregularities in allocating spectrum. It has asked the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to submit their status reports on their probes by Feb 10.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the arrest was on expected lines and that their stand was now vindicated. “But this is too little too late,” Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, wondering why Raja was allowed to function as communications minister for such a long time.

“I wish Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, rather than being in a denial mode, had acted two years ago when it became clear that the exchequer had lost crores and crores of rupees on account of spectrum,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley added.

Raja was forced to resign Nov 7 last year after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) indicted him in the spectrum allocation scam and for causing losses of between Rs.58,000 crore ($12.8 billion) and Rs.1.76 lakh crore ($40 billion) to the exchequer.

This particular case pertains to allocation of spectrum to some new telecom companies in 2008, allegedly ignoring the set norms and procedures.

The former communications minister was alleged to have misused his office and given away spectrum at below market rates. The issue had crippled the entire winter session of parliament as the opposition refused to give up its demand for a joint parliamentary committe probe.