India’s telecom minister denies corruption after raid

NEW DELHI, October 23, 2009 (AFP) – India’s telecom minister Friday denied any corruption in the awarding of new licences to telecom companies in the country last year after a raid by federal police on his ministry. India’s federal criminal investigation agency raided the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Thursday on suspicion that mobile phone network licences were awarded to companies below the market rate.

Telecom Minister A. Raja denied any “irregularities” during the sale while speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Friday.

“Licences were issued in accordance with the law. I had no external pressure to deviate from the law,” he said.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered criminal cases against unnamed officials working in the department and company executives for conspiring to keep prices down, CBI spokesperson Harsh Bhal told AFP.

Bhal said investigations had revealed the sale of the licences in 2008 was conducted on a “first come, first served basis” at 2001 prices without competitive bidding or an auction.

The DoT also put a cap on the number of applicants, against the advice of the industry regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, he sa