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Satellite deal heat on former Isro chief

The CBI today filed a chargesheet against former Isro chief Madhavan Nair and others for allegedly being part of a "criminal conspiracy" to cause undue gain to themselves and loss to the government through a satellite deal.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 12.08.16
  •  

New Delhi, Aug. 11: The CBI today filed a chargesheet against former Isro chief Madhavan Nair and others for allegedly being part of a "criminal conspiracy" to cause undue gain to themselves and loss to the government through a satellite deal.

The chargesheet alleges that the deal between Isro's commercial arm Antrix and private company Devas Multimedia - although cancelled by the Centre in February 2011 - had caused a loss of Rs 578 crore to the government.

Under the January 2005 agreement, Antrix was to build, launch and operate two satellites built by Isro and lease 70 MHz S-band satellite spectrum to Devas for 12 years. Devas had planned to offer customers across India audio-video and broadband wireless services through a hybrid satellite-terrestrial network.

In response to complaints filed by Devas, an international tribunal last year declared the government's cancellation of the deal as "unlawful" and awarded Devas damages of $672 million. Another tribunal last month observed that the government had expropriated the investments of Devas' shareholders, acting unfairly and inequitably.

In addition to Nair, the CBI chargesheet, filed in the Patiala House Courts here, is also against the then executive director of Antrix, the president and CEO, three erstwhile directors of Devas and a former additional secretary in the department of space.

The chargesheet alleges a "criminal conspiracy" by the officials to "cause undue gain to themselves by abusing their positions as public servants and cause loss to Antrix and Isro by lease of the satellite capacity to Devas".

The CBI had registered the case against the officials last year, alleging that between 2004 and 2011, they had worked with Devas executives to give rights for the delivery of audio-video and information services to mobile receivers on the ground via satellites to "an ineligible company." The rights given to Devas violated guidelines on how India should distribute its satellites' capacities, the CBI said.

The agency has said it is continuing to investigate other aspects of the case, including the distribution of frequencies, the foreign direct investment received, funds transferred from the accounts of the private company into foreign accounts and offences under criminal breach of trust by the public officials.

A government panel that investigated the deal in 2011 had observed that the agreement appeared skewed in favour of Devas and imposed heavy obligations on Antrix and Isro. The panel had also observed that the agreement was not consistent with the principle of "non-exclusivity" when leasing out transponders.