Raja, Balwa’s CBI custody extended

Former Telecom Minister A. Raja was on Monday sent to Central Bureau of Investigation custody for three more days by a Delhi court which also extended the custody of Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa for four more days in the 2G spectrum case after the investigation agency said it wanted to confront them on the money trail.

“Considering the enormity of crime, complex and complicated nature of the investigation, voluminous documents involved in the case, I find that the prayer for further custodial interrogation of the accused persons is justified,” Special CBI judge O.P. Saini said.

During the hearing on its plea for extension of the remand for Mr. Raja and Mr. Balwa, the CBI said the duo needed to be confronted with some more documents recovered by the investigating agency.

“They (Mr. Raja and Mr. Balwa) are further required to be put under sustained custodial interrogation and confronted with each other on the trail of money as well as with other suspects and witnesses so that the real facts and elements of criminal conspiracy including omission and commission committed in this case, can be unearthed and taken to light,” the CBI said in its remand application.

The CBI initially had sought only two days’ custody for Mr. Raja but the court remanded him in the agency’s custody for three more days after the former Minister’s counsel pointed out to the judge that it will be a national holiday on account of Milad-un-Nabi on February 16 and Mr. Raja may remain in custody for an additional day.

Opposing the CBI’s plea for extension of Mr. Balwa’s custody, his counsel Vijay Aggarwal contended before the court that his client was merely engaged in bona fide commercial transactions and had not violated any law.

“The CBI has not put forward any specific evidence (of Balwa’s criminal culpability) for seeking extension of his remand and has made only a general statement without any substance,” Mr. Aggarwal said.

The CBI, however, pointed out to the court that the agency has added two more sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to cheating and forgery in the case against the accused.

“While investigation is in progress, things are coming to light and so sections 420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery) of IPC have been added,” Senior Public Prosecutor Akhilesh, appearing for the CBI, said.

While seeking extension of the custody, the CBI said the case was “complicated and highly technical“.

“It is an important case. Vastness of the documents and ramifications of this case are much wider and so we need further custodial interrogation of the accused,” the CBI said.

With the court remanding Mr. Raja to three more days of CBI’s custody, the former Minister will be completing the maximum number of 14 days for which any investigating agency can keep an accused in its custody for questioning.

After spending 14 days in the custody of any investigating agency, the accused is sent to judicial custody.

Mr. Raja was arrested on February 2 and remanded to CBI custody initially for five days.

On February 8, he was again remanded to CBI custody for two more days after the agency told the court that he was not cooperating during questioning and was being evasive.

The former Minister’s custody was again extended by two more days on February 10 on a CBI plea.

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