New Delhi, Aug. 22: Anil Ambani, who today appeared as a prosecution witness in the 2G case, answered most questions with, “I do not recall”, and was accused by the CBI of going back on a statement he had made during the probe.
“Sir, you are forgetting too much. Try to recollect something,” special CBI judge O.P. Saini told the Reliance ADAG chairperson, who stood in the witness box having refused the offer of a chair.
The CBI, which had called Ambani to buttress its case, urged the court to declare him a hostile witness after he failed to testify against Shahid Usman Balwa, one of the main accused.
“I am not aware of Swan Telecom,” Ambani told the court. The firm promoted by Balwa, which won 2G spectrum licences, is alleged to be a front of Reliance Telecom.
“I cannot recall if RTL (Reliance Telecom) had made an investment to the extent of 9.9 per cent in equity shares in STPL (Swan),” he said.
At one point, the judge said: “This is an advice to you. It can go against you also that you don’t know even the names of your companies. So be careful.”
The CBI chargesheet alleges that Reliance Telecom had used Swan as a front to get 2G licences. Reliance Telecom says it held 9.9 per cent shares in Swan when the latter applied for the licences but owned no stake in 2008, when the licences were granted, or thereafter.
Three Reliance ADAG executives — Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair — are facing trial.
Earlier, Ambani, 54, said he could not “recall” the various board meetings of a company he is associated with, arguing that the minutes were not prepared by him.
“I do not recall about each and every meeting of AAA Consultancy Services (P) Ltd,” he said, when the special public prosecutor showed him the minutes of meetings held in 2005-06. “I attend a large number of meetings and I do not recall.”
The judge asked him whether the records were false. “It’s ok if you don’t remember about the meetings you attended. But you do not maintain false records. Your record must be correct?” Saini asked Ambani, who had arrived in court at 9am, a good one hour before proceedings began.
“Yes sir, the records should be correct,” replied Ambani, who looked nervous.
He testified that he had met former telecom minister A. Raja, the prime accused, in his office multiple times.
“What did you discuss with him?” special public prosecutor U.U. Lalit asked.
“I discussed about the overall development of telecom sector in India,” replied Ambani.
Having driven to the Patiala House Courts, near India Gate, in a Honda Accord and given the media the slip by avoiding the main gate, he sat in the 2G courtroom and waited as Raja, Balwa and the three Reliance ADAG officials walked in.
Once judge Saini arrived, Ambani stood up and took his place before a packed courtroom. The judge asked if he was comfortable standing or needed a chair.
When the industrialist denied having handed any note to the CBI in February 2011, the investigating agency told the court he had “resiled” from his earlier statement and sought permission to cross-examine him.
The judge allowed the plea, but not before asking Ambani whether he was facing any threat or was under any pressure while deposing today.
“I am not under any threat, pressure or coercion from any quarter,” the industrialist said.
“Do you know that a person who makes a false statement in court can be prosecuted and punished under the law?” the judge asked him.
“Yes, sir. I know it,” he replied.
The proceedings continued till 2.50pm, with a one-and-a-half-hour break for lunch. He left without speaking to waiting journalists, again through a side gate of the complex.
“Tina will appear before the court tomorrow to testify,” Ambani informed the court moments before the end of proceedings.
In summoning Ambani and his wife Tina as witnesses last month, the CBI had argued that they had “unrestricted powers” to issue cheques. Tina was one of the signatories in transactions that needed to be examined and had presided over relevant meetings, the agency said.
After some lawyers for the Ambanis reminded the public prosecutor that he had said Tina could be dropped as a witness, Lalit said: “It is true that I had said if Anil Ambani gives all the answers, I will not examine her (Tina). But the witness (Anil) has not supported the prosecution case and so I need to cross-examine her.”
Tina, summoned tomorrow to record her statement, had moved a plea seeking exemption from personal appearance. However, after concluding his deposition today, her husband told the court: “Sir, Mrs Tina Ambani will appear tomorrow.”