Norwegian telecoms major Telenor has sought the resignation of Sanjay Chandra as chairman of Unitech Wireless, in which it has a controlling stake, following his arrest on Thursday in the 2G telecommunications scam.
''Withdrawing from the chairman position is the most appropriate and decent thing for Sanjay Chandra to do given the current circumstances,'' said a statement from Telenor. ''It is of vital importance that running the business of our Indian operation is not hampered. As a responsible shareholder, Telenor believes that Unitech Ltd., in the best interest of Unitech Wireless, should appoint a replacement for Sanjay Chandra as soon as possible.''
Unitech, the second-largest real estate group in the country, has however, not responded to this plea. Relations between the two partners have been strained following the CBI probe into the role of Unitech Wireless in acquiring 2G licenses. The company was among the three beneficiaries favoured by former telecom minister A. Raja – now in jail on corruption charges.
Telenor, in which the Norwegian government has a 54 per cent stake, acquired a controlling stake in Unitech Wireless in 2009. It now owns 67.25 per cent of shares with the rest being held by the Unitech group. Unitech Wireless offers mobile phone services under the Uninor brand.
The Norwegian company wants its partner to replace Chandra – who is the son of Ramesh Chandra, the Unitech founder – with a substitute for as long as the 2G case goes on. Telenor maintains that the alleged wrongdoing occurred before it acquired a stake in Unitech Wireless and that the company has ''zero tolerance'' for corruption.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday opposed the bail plea of Chandra and four other telecom executives - Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom, and Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara of Reliance Communications – all of who were sent to judicial custody by the special CBI court (See: Special court denies bail to five telecom executives)
The CBI filed an 80,000 page charge-sheet, naming Raja – who is a member of the DMK and is close to Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi – in the 2G scam. Besides Raja, others arrested in the case include his personal assistant R K Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa.
The CBI plans to file its second charge-sheet in a few days and the third one by the end of May. The CBI probe is being closely monitored by the Supreme Court.