India arrests top executive of Etisalat joint venture

The arrest is in connection with an ongoing investigation into alleged favoritism in allocation of 2G spectrum

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested the vice-chairman of Etisalat DB Telecom, a mobile services joint venture.

Shahid Balwa was arrested in connection with ongoing investigations into alleged irregularities in the allocation of 2G licenses and spectrum in 2008, a spokesman for the CBI said on Wednesday. Balwa is to be produced in court in Mumbai on Wednesday.

The country’s former telecommunications minister, A. Raja, and two key civil servants in the telecommunications ministry were arrested last week in connection with these investigations.

Irregular allocations of 2G licenses and spectrum in 2008 to some Indian operators may have cost the country about US$39 billion, according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), that was presented in India’s Parliament in November.

Balwa is also managing director of DB Realty which promoted Swan Telecom, one of the companies that CAG said had benefited from the irregular allotment of licenses and spectrum. DB Realty subsequently sold a 45 percent stake in the company to Etisalat, and the company was renamed as Etisalat DB Telecom in 2009. Etisalat is the biggest mobile service provider in the United Arab Emirates.

Etisalat DB Telecom did not respond to a request for comment on the arrest.

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 governmentregulationtelecommunicationtelephonyEtisalatDB RealtyEtisalat DB Telecom

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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