CBI plays Radia tapes during Raja quiz

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  • Published 25.12.10
Policemen at Kalmadi’s house during the search; Pictures by Rajesh Kumar and Prem Singh

New Delhi, Dec. 24: Former telecom minister A. Raja was left red-faced today after CBI officers played tapes of conversations he had with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia during an almost nine-hour interrogation into the 2G scam.

“Initially he denied having any such conversation with Niira Radia. That’s when we thought of playing the tapes, especially the part on his conversation with her. He listened to it carefully,” a senior CBI officer said.

Raja arrived at the CBI office at 10.20am in a white Toyota Corolla and went straight to the first floor anti-corruption branch office where the investigating officers were expecting him.

Addressing him as “sir”, they took him to another room and offered him tea and biscuits but he refused. Instead, he asked them to start questioning him, as that was what he had come for.

The marathon session began at 10.40am in a closed room. All his statements were recorded.

Raja was questioned why he had advanced the dates for spectrum allocation and on his relatives’ role in companies that allegedly acted as a front for telecom firms that got spectrum between September 2007 and January 2008.

He was then shown documents seized during the December 8 raids on his residence and those of his team members, relatives and business associate Sadik Basha, a director of real-estate company Greenhouse Promoters in Chennai.

“He had done his homework and brought some papers along to corroborate his claims. It seemed he was in a hurry as he told us to ask him whatever we wanted to know from him,” the officer said.

Around 1.30pm, the CBI team offered him lunch but he refused them again. He then phoned his driver and told him to fetch lunch from his residence some 7km away.

When the driver started the car, a stampede-like situation ensued with waiting mediapersons charging towards the CBI office entrance expecting Raja to show up.

“The driver returned at 2.10pm and Raja had his lunch,” the officer said. The former minister was then offered tea, which he could not refuse because of the CBI officers’ persistence.

Around 3pm, the CBI officers played the Radia tapes and asked Raja about allegedly favouring certain telecom companies. Radia, of Vaishnavi Communications, was questioned earlier this week.

Raja was also questioned about his alleged links with hawala operators Mahesh Jain and his brother Alok whose office and residence in Delhi were also raided this month. The duo are alleged to have a role in transferring money some people received for favouring certain firms.

Raja emerged from the CBI office around 7.40pm. Waiting mediapersons fired questions but he did not say much.

“I co-operated with the CBI. I do not have anything to say beyond this as the matter is under investigation,” he said before getting into his car.

A CBI official said that after examining most of the seized documents and questioning several people, the agency had evidence to suggest there had been “some criminal conspiracy” while favouring telecom companies.

“Now we will register a case against specific people under the Prevention of Corruption Act,” he said.

Vineeta Thakur, the DIG, CBI, said: “The former telecom minister was questioned in relation to the case registered into the allocation of unified access service licences.”

The Supreme Court has asked the CBI to submit status reports on its investigations by February 10.