A Raja during the CBI raid at his residence in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)
Chennai/New Delhi, Dec. 8: A. Raja and his alleged kingdom of officials, relatives and a business associate were raided by the CBI today as part of a national crackdown that gave M. Karunanidhi a chance to temper his so-far unalloyed support to his acolyte.
The CBI searched 14 premises on Wednesday morning, most of them in the capital and some in Tamil Nadu.
The raids, coming several months after the allegations against the former telecom minister had surfaced, are unlikely to have caught Raja unawares but it was left to Karunanidhi to inject the surprise element in the evening.
We will take action without any hesitation if Raja is found guilty, the Tamil Nadu chief minister told reporters in Chennai.
On the face of it, the DMK veteran has not said anything terribly enlightening ó in fact, he iterated that Raja has yet to be proved guilty.
But this is the first time Karunanidhi is hinting at action against Raja. The deft balancing act is being seen as a reflection of the pulls and pressures within the large DMK family.
Karunanidhi has been trying to placate his sons M.K. Alagiri and M.K. Stalin who have been advising him not to support Raja blindly. Raja is counted in the camp of Karunanidhis daughter Kanimozhi.
After ruling out hesitation, Karunanidhi added: However, the DMK believed that Raja had not committed any mistake. Till he is proved guilty we are not prepared to let him down, he said.
Karunanidhi said the CBI raids were not a big issue. We dont consider the raids as an insult to us but there are some in the country who are drowned in insults.
Senior DMK leaders wondered if Raja would be arrested and sought to distance themselves from Raja.
Only our leader Karunanidhi, under pressure from Kanimozhi, continues to defend Raja, even though Stalin and Alagiri have told him not to defend Raja either in public or party forums, said a DMK minister.
In Chennai, the house of Rajas business associate Sadik Basha, a director of the real estate company Greenhouse Promoters, was picked out. CBI officers walked into his house at Teynampet at 7am and questioned him.
Later, he was taken to the CBI office in central Chennai. Two of his bank accounts were frozen, a CBI source said. Rajas wife is the legal adviser to the company.
Rajas elder brother A. Kaliaperumal, who lives in the family house at Velur village near Perambalur, 300km from here, was raided by another CBI team.
A third team questioned Rajas mother-in-law, who also lives near Perambalur. The office of Andimuthu-Chinnapiallai Trust, named after Rajas parents, was searched.
No searches have yet been carried out at the premises of another of Rajas brothers and his sister. All the raiding teams were headed by an officer who came from Delhi. The Chennai office only provided the manpower and logistical help, a CBI official said.
In Delhi, referring to the search on Bashas premises, a CBI official said: We have found some documents which suggest that there has been some transaction between this firm and other telecom companies.
Vineeta Thakur, CBI deputy inspector-general, added: It has been alleged that there had been serious irregularities in the award of Unified Access Services Licences to private companies. As per information received, there was criminal conspiracy between certain officials of DoT and private persons or companies and others. The aim was to award licences to those companies by putting a cap on the number of applicants against recommendations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and by awarding licences to private companies on a first-come-first-served basis on the rates of 2001 without any competitive bidding.
Asked why the CBI took so long to conduct the searches, an officer said: We waited for a directive from our bosses.
According to him, Raja could be questioned in a day or two.