| Anil: Snoop salvo
April 7: Anil Ambani has accused a Reliance Infocomm director of tapping his phones and demanded a government investigation.
The charge has been levelled in a letter that the younger scion of the Reliance group has written to home minister Shivraj Patil. It comes on top of a complaint he apparently made in early March about death threats he had received.
Late tonight, Reliance Infocomm issued a statement refuting the charge. 'Reliance Infocomm categorically denies any attempt by the company or its officials to tap anyone's phone, much less that of Shri Anil Ambani, vice-chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Ltd, or his office. The allegation is baseless and malicious and the company strongly refutes the same,' it said.
The latest twist in the Reliance saga adds an element of palace intrigue in the riveting boardroom drama that has unfolded ever since differences between brothers Mukesh, who heads Reliance Infocomm, and Anil burst into the open last October.
The government is reported to have forwarded Anil's letter to intelligence agencies and asked them to conduct an inquiry.
Intelligence Bureau officials confirmed that they had been asked to carry out an investigation. However, they claimed that both sides were resorting to such tactics and that they did not wish to get embroiled in a family battle.
Stating that the phone taps amounted to an unprecedented and criminal invasion of privacy and gross violation of his constitutional rights, both as an elected member of Parliament and a private citizen, Anil said: 'In view of the grave and shocking nature of the charges, I would urge you to order an urgent official inquiry into the matter by a competent government agency.'
Anil is also reported to have said the interests of the Reliance Infocomm director who had ordered the phone taps would be directly affected if the family reached a settlement.
There has been speculation in the media that Anil will relinquish his interests in the flagship Reliance Industries in favour of Mukesh.
In return, he would gain control of Reliance Infocomm, Reliance Energy and Reliance Capital.
Anil also named two other top officials of the Reliance group, accusing them of assisting the director.
He said people tapping his mobile and landline phones were using equipment that had been bought from Israel.
'Using this equipment directly and through privately hired parties, these unscrupulous elements have cloned GSM chips of my numbers as well as those numbers being used by my personal staff,' Anil said in the letter to Patil.
ICICI Bank chairman K.V. Kamath has carried out an elaborate valuation of the Reliance group and suggested possible alternatives to Ambani matriarch Kokilaben to arrive at an equitable settlement between the brothers.
Anil has played little role in Reliance Infocomm ' a project that was conceived and rolled out by Mukesh. Reliance Infocomm officials have backed Mukesh in the battle.