Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Indian police 'arrest ex-telecom minister'

NDTV television and the Press Trust of India reported that Raja and two aides had been arrested by federal police from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

A spokesman for the CBI confirmed that Raja had been questioned at police headquarters in the capital since 10:00am (0430 GMT) on Wednesday, but said he had not been formally arrested.

"We are questioning Raja. We will continue our interrogation for two more hours," spokesman R.K. Gaur told AFP.

Raja was forced out of the government in November over the cut-price sale of second-generation (2G) mobile phone licences that India's government audit watchdog estimates cost the treasury as much as 40 billion dollars.

The licences were sold on a first-come, first-served basis instead of at auction and the telecom ministry is suspected of changing the bidding rules to favour certain companies, many of which were ineligible, according to the auditor.

In November, India's Supreme Court queried why the police had failed to question Raja, a low-caste politician from south India, over what could be India's biggest ever corruption scam.

The rules for selling the second-generation (2G) telecom licences had been changed "arbitrarily," said Supreme Court judge A.K. Ganguly at the time.

Police have since raided the homes of Raja, who denies any wrongdoing, and other senior telecom ministry officials and questioned them at length.

India's left-leaning government, led by the Congress party, has been on the backfoot over the so-called 2G scam for months and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised to punish the guilty.

Raja belongs to the regional Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party which draws support from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.


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