In shortlisting WiMax franchisees, the BSNL has violated its own guidelines which make it mandatory for the eligible bidder to have Rs 100-crore turnover per year for two consecutive years. Neither the shortlisted company, Ampoules & Auto Pvt Ltd, nor its re-born entity Starnet communication Pvt Ltd meets the criteria.
When Ampoules & Auto Pvt Ltd submitted the bid in June 2009, the company was non-functional. The company filed its last annual returns in 2004, which showed the pathetic situation of this firm engaged in automobile spare parts and medical supply. No money flow was shown in the last annual returns and the company said on affidavit that it was in the category of companies with less than Rs10-crore annual turnover.
During the bidding process in November 2009, the name of Ampoules was changed to Starnet Communications Pvt Ltd and six years of pending annual returns were filed in just two days. All these returns showed little money on the company balance sheet. Once again, in the mandatory affidavit filed before the Registrar of Companies (RoC), West Bengal, they admitted it belonged to the category of companies with below Rs10-crore turnover.
According to highly placed officials of the BSNL, they were under pressure from the Telecom Ministry’s “political master” to accept the manipulated annual returns showing inflated figures above Rs 100 crore per year.
Incidentally, in a rejoinder to an earlier report of The Pioneer on this subject, the BSNL said that, “The company (Ampoules & Auto Pvt Ltd) has submitted certified copies of balance sheet of last two years and has requisite turnover.” The rejoinder was issued by AGM (Adm & Legal) of BSNL Chennai unit.
This is not the end of the story. Raja’s men virtually took over the new-born Starnet Communications Pvt Ltd. One of its directors is 40-year-old Rajesh Ishwarbhai Bhatt, popularly known as Rajesh Bhatt, hailing from Mumbai. He is an engineer, now in Malaysia, and currently working as vice-president of Raja’s favorite company Wellcom Communications of Malaysia.
Raja had first tried to grant WiMax franchise to Wellcom Communications, after lobbying by its owner Dato Vijayakumar Ratnavelu, for Delhi and Chennai. Dato Vijayakumar, a Tamil-origin Malaysian, floated Wellcom Communications India Pvt Ltd with 15 per cent share of Raja’s close aide T Silvarajoo.
T Silvarajoo is a frequenter at Raja’s office/home and a sub-contractor of CPWD. Hailing from Raja’s home town Peramballur, Silvarajoo is also the manager of Dr C Krishnamoorthy’s quarry mine, which supplies pellets to the CPWD. Before becoming an MP, Raja operated his legal office in Krishnamoorhty’s building in his hometown.
Raja had also faced allegations of calling Justice Reghupathy of Madras High Court in June 2009 for granting bail to Krishnamoorthy in a criminal case.
Another director of Starnet is one Manoharan Shanmugasundaram of Chennai and reportedly close to Silvarajoo. This is his first corporate venture. The company had already filed application to change its registered office to Chennai.
The Pioneer’s previous expose about Raja’s link with Silvarajoo and Wellcom aborted his ploy to grant them WiMax franchise and the BSNL was forced to cancel the bidding process.
After the Malaysian link was exposed, Raja took a different route. BSNL was forced to short list a set of five shell companies floated by another power broker Sanjay Kapoor. These five companies floated on a single date, same witnesses, same notary were filled with Sanjay Kapoor’s wife, father in law, mother in law and even his driver. When this strategy was reported in The Pioneer, the PMO ordered cancellation of the entire procedures in Jun 2009.
The new tender was floated with the criteria of Rs 100-crore turnover for bidding. That process has also now got into controversy with Raja trying to bring his favourite Wellcom Communications via Starnet Communications via Ampoules & Auto Private Limited.
Incidentally, the fraud of changing Ampoules name to Starnet took place during the same period in November 2009, when CBI had launched a countrywide probe to in connection with the 2G Spectrum scam.
[The writer is a Special Correspondent of “The Pioneer” newspaper. This report is based on the series of reports appeared on Jan 27 – Feb 1 : 2010]