India charges ex-minister in telecom graft scandal

NEW DELHI, April 2, 2011 (AFP) – Indian police on Saturday charged a former telecom minister with abuse of power and conspiracy in an alleged mobile spectrum fraud that cost the country billions of dollars in lost revenue. The south Indian politician, A. Raja, was also accused of cheating, forgery and criminal misconduct on a charge sheet and annexed documents that ran to 80,000 pages and were carried to New Delhi court in seven steel trunks.

Raja, a low-caste politician from a regional party in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s national Congress-led coalition, is suspected of rigging rules for the sale of second generation (2G) mobile licences in 2008 to favour some firms.

The charges were the first to be laid in the corruption scandal, said to be potentially the biggest in independent India’s history, and capped months of investigation into the issuing of the licences and allocation of 2G spectrum.

The charges pave the way for a highly publicised trial that could be a Pandora’s box for the Congress-led coalition as many of the players who received spectrum are seen as having links to the government, analysts say.

A special court has been set up to speed up hearings in the case in which prosecutors