India court rejects bail pleas in telecoms trial

Updated: 2011-04-20 16:19


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NEW DELHI - A court on Wednesday  rejected bail applications of five business executives involved in one of India's biggest corruption scandals, pushing forward a case that has undermined the government and business sentiment in Asia's third largest economy.

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Executives from Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (ADA) Group and the Indian joint ventures of Norway's Telenor and the UAE's Etisalat may go to jail over the sale of telecoms licences at below-market prices.

Former Indian telecoms minister Andimuthu Raja and the executives have been charged with manipulating the grant of telecoms licences and radio airwaves in 2007-08 that a state auditor said could have caused a revenue loss of $39 billion to the government.

The case is the latest chapter in corruption scandals that have embarrassed the Congress party-led government, which faces a test of strength in major state elections this year that could redraw India's political landscape.

The bail pleas involved three officials of billionaire Anil Ambani's Reliance ADA Group, including a group managing director Gautam Doshi.

Sanjay Chandra, managing director of Unitech , and Vinod Goenka, a director of Etisalat's India partner,  were also pleading bail.

Shares in Unitech, which is a joint ventures of Norway's Telenor and the UAE's Etisalat , fell 7.3 percent, DB Realty fell 7 percent and Reliance Communications shares were down 5.6 percent while the main stock index  was up 0.6 percent at 1:05 pm (0735 GMT).

Former telecoms minister Raja was forced to resign last year and was arrested, along with his personal aide, and a former top civil servant in the telecoms ministry. Police have also arrested Shahid Balwa, the vice chairman of Etisalat's India operations.

Police say bribes were paid to Raja and undue favours were granted to the two firms which are now the Indian partners of Telenor and Etisalat.


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