Font Size

- Aa +

Wed 23 Nov 2011 11:29 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Five Indian execs given bail in phone scandal case

Etisalat has denied link to alleged scam through the sale of mobile license to its India unit

Five Indian execs given bail in phone scandal case
Unitechs Sanjay Chandra leaves after an appearance in a New Delhi court

Five Indian company executives charged with offenses linked to a 2008 sale of licenses to run mobile-phone services will be freed from jail after the Supreme Court granted them bail.

Ending seven months in prison, a two-judge top court panel of G.S. Singhvi and H.L. Dattu today gave bail to Reliance ADA Group executives Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara, DB Realty’s Vinod Goenka and Unitect’s Sanjay Chandra, saying there was little chance the men would be able to interfere with evidence important to their trials.

Today’s was the Supreme Court’s first verdict on bail pleas by any of the 14 people jailed in the case. A special court in New Delhi framed charges last month against those accused, which include the five executives, former telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja, federal lawmaker Kanimozhi and three companies.

The telecoms scandal has weakened Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, lowered investors’ confidence, stalled parliament, paralyzed legislation and led to street protests.

The government, under pressure from activists and opposition parties, aims to pass legislation setting up a tough anti-graft agency in the session that started yesterday.

Raja, government officials and the executives are on trial on charges they conspired to grant licenses to unqualified companies for personal benefit. All deny wrongdoing. India’s chief auditor put the potential loss to the exchequer at about $31bn, while the Central Bureau of Investigation said it may have cost the government 220 billion rupees ($4.5bn).

The trial court judge O.P. Saini yesterday moved proceedings from a court in central Delhi to Tihar jail, the country’s highest security civilian prison for safety and convenience reasons.

UAE telecoms operator Etisalat said in October its Indian affiliate Etisalat DB would contest charges filed by Indian authorities relating to the allocation of its 2G licence in January 2008.

Etisalat bought a 45 percent stake in Swan Telecom for about $900m in September 2008, renaming it Etisalat DB the following year.

The 18-country operator said it had not found any basis for these charges and warned its affiliate would "defend the charges resolutely".

For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.