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Shourie faces CBI quiz

New Delhi, Feb. 25: Arun Shourie, who served as telecom minister in the NDA regime, today appeared before the CBI in connection with the 2G spectrum probe and later said the inquiry should focus on the money trail rather than any procedural lapse in awarding spectrum licences in 2007-08.

“The real issue involved kickbacks and not the policy pursued for spectrum allocation,” he said, emerging from the CBI headquarters after three hours of questioning. “First-come-first-served policy is a red herring shown to the public. The real issue is that the former telecom minister, A. Raja, made money irrespective of whether it was a first-come-first-served policy or not,” he said, adding the important thing was why Raja’s supervisors did not take action.

“They were sleeping. In a bid to divert attention from this issue, the government has come out with the first-come-first-served-basis argument,” said Shourie, who was telecom minister in the Vajpayee government in 2003-04.

On December 17 last year, the Supreme Court broadened the 2G probe, asking CBI to investigate all licences awarded from 2001 to 2006-2007. The CBI is now probing decisions taken by the BJP-led government in granting telecom licences and has registered a preliminary inquiry against unknown persons regarding the grant of licences since 2001.

“We are collecting all the papers relating to policy decisions between 2001 and 2006 to ascertain whether there were any irregularities,” an officer said.

A senior CBI officer said over 40 telecom licences were given out during Shourie’s tenure on a first-come-first-served basis.

Shourie, who reached the CBI headquarters in the morning, was questioned along with the then telecom secretary Vinod Vaish.

“I told them about the circumstances and how individual decisions pertaining to spectrum allocation were taken during my tenure and that there was not a slightest departure from Trai recommendations. There was not a slightest departure from cabinet decisions,” the former minister said.

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