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Indian court orders woman lawmaker arrested in telecom scandal

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
  • Several politicians are suspects in the investigation of telecom deals in India
  • Kanimozhi is a member of the party of A. Raja, who is at the center of the probe
  • Licenses for cell phone spectrum allegedly were sold at far below their value
  • India
  • Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- An Indian court Friday sent a woman lawmaker to jail to await trial in connection with what is seen as the nation's biggest corruption scandal.

Lawmaker Kanimozhi, daughter of a powerful southern Indian politician, is suspected of involvement in the alleged multibillion-dollar telecom spectrum scam.

Kanimozhi, who goes by one name, is from the party of India's disgraced former telecom minister, A. Raja, who is at the center of the alleged below-price sale of second-generation radiowaves three years ago.

Raja is already in custody.

Judge O.P. Saini rejected Kanimozhi's application for bail, saying that he considered "the magnitude of the crime, nature and enormity of the allegations, character of evidence on record and the apprehension that the witnesses may be influenced" if she and others accused in the case were released.

Kanimozhi will now face the trial while in custody in a New Delhi jail, although a suspect reserves the right to appeal again in India's judicial system.

She is among several influential politicians arrested after Raja, whose party is an ally of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, as part of investigations into the massive mobile-permit scandal.

More than a dozen defendants have been charged in the case that has rocked the country's coalition government and investor confidence in Asia's third-largest economy.

Suspects are accused of participating in a scheme involving the underselling of cell phone licenses at the height of India's lucrative telecom boom.

Police have also questioned several high-profile executives. The firm of business tycoon Anil Ambani is among three companies named in the charge sheet spelling out the accusations.

Politicians, bureaucrats and corporate officials linked to the probe into the scandal have denied any wrongdoing.

According to a government audit, the treasury lost as much as $31 billion from the 2008 sale of the wireless spectrum. That audit report came on the heels of allegations of massive fraud in sports and real estate.

In February, the prime minister accepted opposition demands for a wider, cross-party investigation into the massive scandal that has rattled his administration, now in its second term. The investigation by federal police was already under way when he agreed to the parliamentary probe.