Saturday, December 11, 2010

Links to foreign intelligence agencies part of Radia investigation

The government has told the Supreme Court that it authorised the tapping of PR executive Niira Radia's phone.The government's response was filed by the Ministry of Finance. It said that the process of tapping Radia's phone began on August 19, 2008 after a complaint received by the Finance Minister on November 16, 2007. (Read: Home Secretary's clarification on Radia tapes)The complaint had alleged that Radia in a span of just nine years built up a business empire worth Rs. 300 crore.It also alleged Radia was an agent of foreign intelligence agencies and she was indulging in anti-national activities.

The affidavit states, "15 telephone lines including cell phones and SMSs of Radia and her associates were intercepted after the finance minister in November 2007 had received a complaint that the lobbyist had within a short span of nine years built up a business empire worth Rs. 300 crore and she was an agent of foreign intelligence agencies and was indulging in anti-national activities."The Finance Ministry then sought the Home Ministry's clearance to tap Radia's phone lines. 5800 phone calls were tapped during two periods: 120 days in 2008 and 60 days during 2009.A spokesperson of Radia's firm, Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, has denied these allegations, saying she has never indulged in anti-national activities.The statement says, "There are queries arising from a case which is subjudice before the Honorable Supreme Court to which we are not a party. Therefore it is not within our knowledge and we cannot comment on the veracity of this. There are corporate vested interests which circulated an inadmissible and forged letter with malicious, baseless and derogatory content in November 2007. We had reached out to the media then and denied the same. We have complete faith in the investigative agencies. We hope that the forces working overtime to harm us will be duly identified and punished. As responsible corporate neither we nor our promoter have ever indulged in any anti-national activities." The affidavit also states that the tapes were not leaked by the Income Tax Department. The government has also said that while the leak should be investigated, it cannot stop the media from publishing transcripts of the conversations on the leaked tapes.Some of those conversations with politicians, industrialists and others have been leaked to the media and have been reported on widely. Rata Tata, who is one of Radia's biggest clients and was on the leaked tapes, had last month filed a case against the government in the Supreme Court on the grounds that the leaked tapes encroached upon his right to privacy. Tata said that while he had no objection to any investigation by the government, his conversations with Radia that were made available to the public were of a personal nature and are irrelevant to charges like tax evasion and foreign exchange violations, which are among the reasons why Radia's phone was allegedly tapped from 2008-2009.The tapes are also being used by the CBI to investigate the details of the 2G scam. Believed to be India's largest-ever scam, it saw 2G spectrum being given at what are described as inexplicably low prices by former Telecom Minister A Raja to companies who were later found to be ineligible by experts.