New Delhi: Barely a week after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided the homes of A Raja, come new raids at the homes and offices of other alleged key players in the humongous 2G scam.
Topping the list of the big fish raided today are PR executive Niira Radia and Pradip Baijal, who served for three years as the Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The CBI says it has recovered several incriminating documents during the raids.
After he retired, Baijal joined one of several PR firms owned by Radia. (Read: Who is Pradip Baijal?)
It is the intercepted phone conversations of Radia with politicians, industrialists and others that have become the most controversial and some say significant part of the CBI's effort to determine who's at the centre of the 2G scam, alleged to be India's largest-ever swindle, and evaluated by the government's auditor at Rs 1.76 lakh crore. That assessment - and the auditor's indictment of Raja as the epicenter - led to Raja's exit as Telecom Minister last month.
Radia is alleged to have served as a corporate lobbyist for clients like Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani. In 2008 and 2009, her phones were tapped by the government.(Read: Who is Niira Radia?)
In the Supreme Court, the government has attested that a complaint received in 2007 pointed out that in a matter of nine years, Radia's fortune from her PR companies was worth Rs 300 crore. The government also said that the same complaint - it did not specify who filed it- suggested that Radia was working as a spy for foreign intelligence agencies.
On Monday, the Supreme Court asked for a copy of the complaint, and warned that the investigation should not tarnish the image of any individual. The court said, "We make it clear nobody's image should be tarnished. Every individual has the right to protect his dignity." The judges also warned the media to report carefully on Tata's case.
"We would like to say that over the last three weeks, there were distorted proceedings of the court. So far we have ignored it. But don't take the risk of hauled up. Nobody will be allowed to play with the court. Use restraint." While acknowledging the role of the media as "watchdogs," the court said, "They should not cross the lakshman rekha."
Among the targets of today's raids in Tamil Nadu- A Raja's auditors and Kamaraj, a journalist known to be close to Mr Raja's party, the DMK. Kamaraj is believed to be a Director in a company owned by Mr Raja's family.
So far, DMK chief M Karunanidhi has said that the party stands by Raja. However he also said that if Raja is found guilty, "he will be thrown out."
The investigation into the 2G scam has led to the longest-ever impasse in Parliament history. This past Winter Session, which ended on Monday, saw less than 10 working hours in both Houses. The Opposition insists that it will not allow Parliament to function till the government agrees to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). Given that a JPC would have the authority to summon the PM and ministers, the government has ruled this out. It points out that in addition to the CBI investigation, the Supreme Court is hearing different cases related to the 2G scam. It also stresses that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Murli Manohar Joshi of the BJP, has already begun studying the 2G scam.
Tamil Nadu Raids Currently Include:
Kamaraj, senior journalist, associate editor of Nakkeeran, a pro-DMK magazine. DMK chief M Karunanidhi conducted Kamaraj's wedding. Kamaraj's wife, Jeyasudha, is a senior executive at the Chennai office of Vaishnavi Communications, owned by Niira Radia.
Residence of Raja's brother, Ramachandran, in Periyar Nagar, Trichy
At an NGO in Chennai which enjoys the patronage of Rajya SAbha MP Kanimozhi who is Karunanidhi's daughter and is known to be a staunch support of Raja's.