Raja Ministry in fresh scam J Gopikrishnan | New Delhi- Wednesday, January 27, 2010 Non-existent firm set to be BSNL’s WiMax franchisee Yet another mega scam has been added to the continuing saga of fraud and corruption in the functioning of the Telecom Ministry under A Raja. One of the companies, shortlisted for BSNL WiMax franchisee across India, does not exist. Of the four shortlisted companies, a firm called Ampules, designated to operate in Chennai, Haryana, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh, is not at all registered in India. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs online registry shows that no such company is registered in the country till this date. This gross irregularity has happened despite specific BSNL guidelines which make it mandatory that a WiMax franchisee company should be registered in India and must have Rs 100 crore turnover per year in the last two years. Only one company having a similar name — Ampoules — is registered in India, but it has nothing to do with telecom as it is a pharmaceutical company. The full name of this company is Ampoules and Vials Manufacturing Company Limited and it was established in Mumbai in 1972. “If any discrepancy found, we would take action. These companies have only been shortlisted. Actually, all these procedures were initiated by Chennai unit of the BSNL. Let me verify the documents of Ampules. I am not sure about their details. If any violation is found, we would take strong action,” BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Kuldeep Goyal told The Pioneer on Tuesday. The Pioneer has learnt from reliable sources that the so-called Ampules (or Ampoules) is in the process of being floated by some Tamil-origin Malaysian citizens, believed to be connected with the Wellcom Communications, promoted by friends of A Raja. Their application is pending before the Chennai RoC. Sources said the Telecom Ministry exerted pressure on BSNL officials to include this firm, but the question remains how this unborn firm will pass the BSNL’s criteria of Rs 100-crore turnover per year for last two years. After the controversial allocation of 2G spectrum, Raja was trying to involve his friendly companies in the lucrative WiMax franchisee allotment. First, he tried to allot the franchise to Wellcom Communications, the company floated by his Malaysian friends and one T Silvarajoo, a frequenter in his office and hailing from his home town Peramballur. When this move was reported by The Pioneer, Raja took a different route last year by engaging one of his close aides Sanjay Kapoor to float five shell companies, registered on a single date, same notary, auditor and witness. The posts of directors of all these five companies were filled by Sanjay Kapoor’s family members, including his driver. After The Pioneer expose, the PMO asked the BSNL to cancel the process. Then, the BSNL floated new Expression of Interest (EoI) with specific conditions in June 2009. Last week, the BSNL finalised four firms, including the non-existent Ampules (or Ampoules) for allotment of WiMax franchisee. The other three firms are Teracom Limited, Adhishwar India Ltd and Chennai-based Take Solutions Ltd. Teracom, already in the telecom sector, and supported by the multinational Cisco bagged the maximum number of circles. Adhishwar and Take Solutions are considered as new entrants in telecom sector and are supported by Israel-based Alvarion and Chinese ZTE respectively. The non-registered firm Ampules (or Ampoules) is also supported by Israeli Alvarion. The application of E-mall Infotech was rejected. WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is faster than 3G and 4G in providing internet connection to mobiles and laptops. The BSNL’s WiMax franchisee is considered as a lucrative business, as the private players get 70-80 per cent share of the revenue, out of the expense of the public sector undertakings’ huge infrastructure. The franchisee also enjoys the advantage of holding of 20 Mega Hertz of Spectrum, which they could off load stakes at an exorbitant price to another company. In case of 2G spectrum allotment, real estate companies Swan and Unitech sold their stakes to multinationals at huge margin. The BSNL’s Rs 1,000 crore plan to roll out WiMax in rural areas is also dogged in controversy. The Hyderabad-based Vippalamritha Magnetic Components Ltd (VMC), which had emerged the fourth lowest bidder for the project, has been put under scanner for alleged evasion of duties by its parent company while importing equipment for an earlier BSNL contract. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence has also issued a show-cause notice to Prithvi Information Solution, the parent company of VMC, for the alleged non- payment of Rs 55 crore as duties. The other selected vendors of BSNL are Chennai-based Gemini Communications — a new entrant, Chinese ZTE and US- based Harris Stratex. The BSNL allotted the most revenue earning circles — Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh — one year ago without any tender to US-based Soma Networks. Former Planning Commission member MS Pathak, son of former Vice-President of India GS Pathak, is the chairman of Soma Networks. Yatish Pathak, MS Pathak’s son, is the Chief Executive Officer of the firm.
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