TOI foretold scam, detailed Raja’s modus operandi

Posted on February 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

NEW DELHI: The Times of India was the only newspaper that had foretold not just the losses arising from the 2G scam, but also detailed the modus operandi of jailed ex-telecom minister A Raja in granting licences to favoured companies by helping them jump the queue.

TOI had mentioned how Raja illegally advanced the cut-off date and designed a bespoke first-come-first-served (FCFS) policy while snubbing the PM, the law minister, the finance ministry and his own senior officials. Much of this has now found mention in the crucial section 70 (I – VII) of the Supreme Court judgment that was delivered on Thursday.

In over 20 articles before the scam was perpetrated, TOI’s Shalini Singh had painstakingly detailed the questionable decisions made by Raja. The very first article indicating that the Rs 1,600 crore entry fee was “ridiculously low” and could attract “an army of bounty hunters” was written on October 3, 2007 – a month before Raja revealed his plans to the PM on November 2, 2007 and three months before the scam.

Other articles included ‘DoT gets 575 applications for mobile licenses’ (Oct 11, 2007), ‘Spectrum policy flawed’, (Oct 24, 2007), ‘Auctions most transparent way of distributing 2G spectrum’ (Oct 27), ‘DoT grapples with spectrum woes’ (Nov 5), ‘Auctions unfair, Raja tells PM’ (Nov 6), ‘DoT asked to process license applications’ (Nov 9), ‘DoT may leave 26 applicants in lurch’ (Nov 12) and ‘DoT ready to offer LoIs’ (Dec 7, 2007).

The article ‘Ministries don’t buy DoT argument’ predicted that Raja was about to illegally advance the cut-off date from October 1 to September 25, 2007, to place a cap of 121 licenses out of 575 applications while intending to claim that he would follow the Trai recommendations of ‘no cap’. The articles also laid out the controversy of changing the order of priority by manipulating the FCFS policy of the government. This was done nearly three weeks before the scam through an article on December 24, 2007 titled, ‘Fee payment date key for telecom license seekers’. TOI also exposed the dissent within Raja’s team on December 27, 2007 in a article ‘DoT wing warns Raja on LoIs’. Further, as soon as the Swan and Unitech transactions yielded windfall gains, TOI was the first to point out on October 30, 2008, ‘Valuations reveal loss of government’, and on November 1, 2008, ‘Telco deals show enterprise value: DoT experts say they are for spectrum’. These articles estimated the loss at Rs 45,000 crore from the Swan and Etisalat transactions. Following this expose, Raja on November 5, 2007 decided to prohibit sale of promoter’s equity.

Two years later, the CAG, in its report, independently arrived at the same figure of loss from the 122 licenses arising out of the Swan and Unitech deals. Similarly, immediately post the 3G auctions, TOI’s detailed article of May 31, 2010, ‘Not auctioning 2G spectrum cost government over 1 lakh crore’, indicated a loss of roughly Rs 1,02,511 crore at 3G prices. Once again, the CAG independently arrived at this figure six months later.

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