A second Indian communications minister is charged in telecom scam

Dayanidhi Maran is alleged to have helped a foreign acquirer to buy operator Aircel

India's top investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, said Monday that it has registered a case against former federal minister Dayanidhi Maran, in connection with ongoing investigations into alleged scams in the Ministry of Communications.

The CBI said it conducted raids Monday in nine places in Delhi and Chennai. The case has been filed against Maran and some business executives under the country's Prevention of Corruption Act.

The CBI had been investigating Maran for some time on charges that he coerced the promoter of mobile operator Aircel to sell his stake to Maxis Communications in Malaysia by delaying clearances of spectrum to Aircel.

Maran, India's telecom minister between 2004 and 2007, is the second former minister of communications to be investigated. His successor, A. Raja, has been under arrest since February after the CBI charged him with involvement in an alleged out-of-turn allotment of 2G licenses and spectrum in 2008. Maran and Raja both belong to the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, a coalition partner of the ruling Congress party in the federal government.

At the instruction of the country's Supreme Court, the CBI broadened its investigation to include not only the 2008 allocations, but also the allotment of licenses and policy changes by the telecom ministry from 2001.

The Monday raids by the CBI came a few hours before the current communications minister, Kapil Sibal, was due to announce a new draft telecom policy for the country that is expected to plug loopholes in earlier rules.

The irregular allocations of 2G licenses and spectrum to some Indian operators in 2008, without an auction, may have cost the country about US$39 billion, according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). The report alleged that a "first come, first served" rule was manipulated to favor some companies.

The case filed Monday by the CBI against Maran may reveal that there were irregularities in the telecom ministry even before the 2008 scam.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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Tags telephonyCriminaltelecommunicationCarriersDayanidhi MaranlegalIndian Ministry of CommunicationsA. Raja

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