World

India court acquits ex-minister and others in 2G telecoms case

NEW DELHI India's former tele­coms minister was yesterday cleared of his alleged role in a multibillion-dollar racket that ballooned into one of the country's biggest political scandals.

A special court in New Delhi acquitted Mr A. Raja of corruption and also dropped charges against a slew of other bureaucrats and corporate executives implicated in the 2008 scandal that cost the state billions in lost revenue.

Judge O. P. Saini said India's federal investigators, who brought the explosive charges against the high-profile defendants, could not prove allegations of criminality.

'MISERABLY FAILED'

"I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that (the) prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any accused," he told a packed courtroom.

Mr Raja smiled after the verdict as his supporters let off firecrackers outside.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, which prosecuted the case, said it would read the full judgement before considering any further action.

The so-called "2G spectrum scam" came to light in 2010 when a government auditor estimated it cost treasury as much as US$39 billion (S$52 billion) in lost revenues - equal to India's defence budget.

India's then-ruling Congress party was accused of under-pricing licenses and favouring certain companies during the tender process, damaging the administration of former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

In 2012, India's top court cancelled 122 licenses for eight companies amid allegations of bribery and wholesale fraud.

Time magazine in 2011 included the scam on a list of historic scandals alongside Watergate, which took down then US president Richard Nixon in 1974.

Analysts said the fallout weakened the Congress party and contributed to its defeat at the 2014 general elections.

Mr Raja, a politician from Tamil Nadu state, resigned as minister in 2010 but always maintained his innocence.- AFP

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