Indian billionaire Ravi Ruia charged over mobile licences Investigation into alleged corruption in India's mobile telecoms sector widens Juliette Garside The Guardian, Tuesday 13 December 2011 Ravi Ruia has been charged with 'criminal conspiracy' and 'cheating' Photograph: B Mathur/Reuters Ravikant Ruia, the Indian billionaire, former Vodafone business partner and chairman of London blue chip stock Essar Energy, has been charged with "criminal conspiracy" and "cheating" as an investigation into alleged corruption in the country's mobile telecoms sector widens its scope. India's Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday filed charges relating to allegations against Ruia, vice chairman of Indian conglomerate Essar Group, and a member of India's fourth richest family, his nephew Anshuman Ruia, a board director responsible for Essar Group's telecoms business, and three other executives at Essar and at another company, Loop Telecom. The case is not directly related to the broader investigation of corruption in the auction of second generation mobile licences in 2008, in which officials are said to have taken multimillion-dollar bribes and cost the public purse up to $39bn in lost revenue as mobile licences were underpriced. Investigators said Essar Group's alleged actions violated licence guidelines that prevent any operator from owning more than 10% of another mobile network with licences in the same service area. Essar Group responded by saying it would "take legal recourse" and that there were "no charges of corruption or involvement in the 2G scam". Essar has always maintained it held only 2.15% in Loop during the time of the application and therefore there was no violation of the guidelines. The company said: "Essar Group is a responsible corporate citizen and has always complied with all government guidelines and the law of the land." The three others charged by the CBI are Vikas Saraf, director of strategy, planning and mergers and acquisitions at Essar Group; Kiran Khaitan, a sister of Ravikant Ruia; and her husband, Ishwari Prasad Khaitan, who are the founders of Loop Group. Ravi Ruia and his brother Shashi control a stake in Essar that was last year estimated by Forbes to be worth $10.2bn (£6.5bn), ranking them as India's fourth richest family. Their interests span steel, oil and gas, power, telecoms, shipping, ports and construction. The group generates $17bn in revenues each year and employs 75,000 people in operations across more than 25 countries. Last year, the oil refining and power assets were listed as Essar Energy on the London Stock Exchange in a £1.3bn initial public offering. The brothers are hoping to bring their infrastructure assets to the London exchange next year, in an estimated £480m listing. Vodafone has so far avoided being dragged into India's telecoms scandal, but the charges against Essar relate to 2008 and 2009, when their partnership was up and running. This July, Vodafone announced it would pay £3.41bn to buy out Essar from its 33% stake in the business.