One of the nation's most popular telecom providers, Bharti Airtel is being investigated for money laundering, as per reports by IBNLive. The Minster of State for Finance, S.S. Palanimanickam disclosed that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating Airtel under money laundering and foreign exchange rules. S.S. Palanimanickam informed the Rajya Sabha, “ED is investigating cases under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, and Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, involving Bharti Airtel Ltd,” he said in a written reply. The minister refused to offer more details, and instead said, “It may not be in the interest of the ongoing investigations to provide any further details.” SingTel, South East Asia's biggest phone company owns a third of Bharti. SingTel operates across 20 countries and it’s the fifth-largest mobile phone carrier by subscribers
Reportedly, owner Sunil Mittal said that he was co-operating with the investigators. Airtel revealed in a statement that they have provided all the relevant details asked for by the authorities and will happily co-operate further, if need be. Mostly involving smaller carriers, the telecom sector had turned scandalous after the below market price telecom licenses granted in 2008. However, reportedly, top telecom providers like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone are also being probed over any ‘possible irregularities’ over grant of airwaves in 2001 and 2002. IndiaToday reports that shareholding of the promoter group of Bharti Airtel was increased from 60.97 percent in June 2007 to 67.14 percent in September 2008 without providing open offer in violation of the Regulation 11 of Sebi Regulations, 1997. The Central Board of Direct Taxes received a reference with allegations about improper accounting treatment of license fee and spectrum charges by the company.
After much speculation over whether Airtel would be the first to offer 4G services in India, or would it be the Reliance, along with offering lucrative Rs.10/GB data plans and the world’s cheapest 4G tablet, the former launched its 4G LTE TDD in Kolkata recently, soon followed by Bengaluru. Reportedly, Bharti Airtel is also in talks with Qualcomm to buy the latter’s 4G licenses for Rs.6,000 crore, which will enable it to launch 4G services in Delhi and Mumbai, too. This deal is likely to be closed in June, which will be accompanied by technology agreements between the two companies.