Former Telecom Minister: Indian PM Knew About Cut-Rate Mobile Phone License Sales

Posted July 25th, 2011 at 10:40 am (UTC-5)
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India’s former telecommunications minister, who is charged in connection with the country’s biggest corruption scandal, says the prime minister and other top officials knew about his decision to sell mobile phone licenses at below-market prices.

During Monday’s court appearance in New Delhi, A. Raja denied wrongdoing in a scandal that is believed to have cost the Indian government up to $40 billion in lost revenue. He and more than a dozen other officials and company executives are accused of conspiring to sell cellular phone licenses at cut-rate prices to the benefit of a few companies.

Raja, who resigned as telecom minister last year, told the court that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the country’s then-finance minister knew about the sale and approved his decision.

Raja argued that his actions were in accordance with government policy. He said “if the policy pursued by me was wrong, then all former telecom ministers since 1993 should also be in jail with me.”

He added that he had done a great deal of good as telecom minister — making it possible for millions of Indians to own a mobile phone, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Raja and others are charged with conspiracy, cheating, and other crimes.

Prime Minister Singh’s ruling Congress Party has been beset by other corruption scandals, including allegations of widespread graft during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which were hosted by the Indian government.