It is now more than 10 years since the installation of the fraudulent telephone exchange by the Marans — former Union Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran and Sun Network owner Kalanithi Maran — at the cost of BSNL took place. And four years since it was exposed by this paper.
The New Indian Express’s exposes in 2011 on illegal telephone exchange smuggled away from BSNL by the Marans and installed in their posh Boat Club residence in Chennai had been wrong on two counts. One, the number of stealthy lines installed was not just 323 high speed telephone lines as originally reported then. The number of lines has now been found to be more than double — 764 high speed lines! Two, the period for which the lines were operated was reported as six months in the investigation in 2011. Now, it has been found that the illegal exchange operated for 36 months from July 2004 to June 2007. On both counts, the 2011 investigation, which was based on the facts in possession at that time, had understated the gravity of the fraud. The original investigation had actually under-reported the size of the fraud. Even its under-reported size was gigantic enough. Now it is more gigantic than was reported in 2011.
Yet, someone in the system is attempting to minimise the fraud by planting news that the loss is just Rs 1.8 crore. The scaling down of the financial size of the fraud is based on Maran’s claim that the lines were used for “official purposes.” The lines were intentionally smuggled away from BSNL for use for commercial purposes by Sun TV, for which proof exists in the form of underground cable laid secretly to connect the 764 lines to Sun TV office from Maran’s home.
The loss, if it is calculated on commercial rate, is huge - hundreds of crores. If it were used for official purposes, where was the crime first? Maran would walk away free if it were used only for official purposes. Why create a telephone exchange of 764 high speed telephone lines in the official office name of the Chief General Manager (CGM) of Chennai Telephones in Maran’s house instead of at BSNL office, for official purposes? First, why a secret and off the record telephone system for official purposes? The truth is that Marans had smuggled away 764 lines fraudulently designating them as service lines for the official use of the CGM of BSNL, when the lines were installed at the personal home of Dayanidhi Maran at Boat Club area in Chennai. As service lines “intended for official use”, the cost of installing the 764 lines is Rs 1.8 crore. This is what has been planted as the loss caused by the fraud. Only fools can be persuaded to believe that the 764 lines were intended and used for “official purposes”.
The truth is that Marans had smuggled away 764 lines fraudulently designating them as service lines for the official use of the CGM of BSNL, when the lines were installed at the personal home of Dayanidhi Maran at Boat Club area in Chennai. As service lines “intended for official use”, the cost of installing the 764 lines is Rs 1.8 crore. This is what has been planted as the loss caused by the fraud. Only fools can be persuaded to believe that the 764 lines were intended and used for “official purposes”.
It is the fraudulent claim of Marans. There is clear physical proof that the 764 high speed lines were intended and used for commercial purposes. The physical proof of it exists in the form of underground cable specially laid from Maran’s Boat Club home to Raja Annamalaipuram junction, from where the general underground cables had connected the 764 lines to the Sun TV office on Anna Salai. Only fools can claim and only the stupid can accept that the 764 lines were installed for official use and so only the installation cost of Rs 1.8 crore is the loss. It is crime - conspiracy, cheating, fraud, bribery, and breach of trust to inflict losses of hundreds of crores on the public for Sun TV to benefit to that extent. Undeniably, the 764 high speed lines had been used only and fraudulently for commercial purposes. Otherwise where is the need for a criminal investigation?
If the BSNL had given the 764 high speed lines for commercial use by Sun TV, what would be the loss? The minimum annual rent payable by Sun TV for each high speed line is Rs 10 lakh. This allows for a maximum of free calls beyond which each call will be charged. The rent of Rs 10 lakh per line alone amounts to Rs 76.4 crore each year. For three years from July 2004 to June 2007, it would multiply to Rs 229.2 crore. On top of it is the user charges, which cannot be calculated because the 764 high speed lines were kept outside the telephone billing system. The fraud prevents the calculation of the user charge. Despite that, a calculation had been made that the use per month in one set of 30 lines was 45 units per month.
On this basis, the loss could be several hundreds of crores of rupees during the three-year period. Since it was a separate telephone exchange, the Marans could have provided free telephone service to as many persons as they wanted. They were in effect the service providers - unlicensed and illegal. The New Indian Express investigation has also found that most officials of Sun TV were connected to the smuggled and fraudulent free telephone system of Marans.
Also, these illegal and smuggled telephone lines are not just a legal fraud inflicting a huge loss on the exchequer. They also point to clear breach of national security. Even a single unmonitored telephone line is a matter for investigation for national security breach. What about 764 high speed telephone system - a completely unmonitored telephone exchange - smuggled away by fraud and installed in a private home in the name of an official to conceal its use?
And who was the CGM of Chennai Telephones then? One M P Velusamy, whose wife was the cousin of Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan, a former DMK minister, who was arrested under TADA for harbouring LTTE terrorists. Dayanidhi Maran overlooked the seniority of one official of BSNL and chose Velusamy as the CGM. Besides the financial fraud and security risk, the choice of Velusamy overlooking a senior as CGM and installing the fraudulent exchange to prevent monitoring seems mysterious. Does this not need investigation into whether there was use of the telephone system for any anti-national purposes? Coincidentally, it was during 2004 to 2007 the war against LTTE had reached a peak. Does the issue of 764 high speed telephone lines kept in the name of CGM Chennai Telephones who was related to a TADA detainee for harbouring LTTE terrorists and used by Sun TV, an LTTE-compassionate DMK mouthpiece, not need a security probe?