UPDATE 1-India police charge Essar, Loop execs in telecoms case

NEW DELHI Mon Dec 12, 2011 7:47am EST

NEW DELHI Dec 12 (Reuters) - India's federal police filed fraud charges against five executives at Essar Group and Loop Telecom on Monday, as part of a sprawling probe into a multi-billion-dollar telecoms case that has rocked the country's political and business establishments.

Alleged corruption in the sale of telecoms licences in 2007 and 2008 may have cost New Delhi up to $39 billion in lost revenue, and led to the arrest and sacking of a former telecoms minister and criminal charges against many top company executives.

Documents seen by Reuters on Monday showed the federal investigator filed fraud and criminal conspiracy charges against billionaire Ravi Ruia and his brother Anshuman Ruia, two of the owners of the Essar Group, which has interests spanning energy and telecoms to steel and shipping.

Police also charged Vikas Sharaf, a director of the Essar Group.

The Essar executives were also charged with controlling Loop, while having substantial stakes in Vodafone.

In July, Vodafone sealed a deal to buy out Essar's share from their Indian joint venture, ending a highly fractious relationship.

Essar, in a statement, has denied all charges and said it would take legal recourse.

Essar owns a less-than 10 percent stake in Loop Telecom, which is among the companies asked to defend licences issued in 2008, which a state auditor subsequently said they were not eligible for.

Two executives of Loop Telecom, Kiran Khaitan and I.P. Khaitan, were also charged on Monday, the documents showed. All the accused could be arrested if not granted bail.

The government auditor last year said Loop, which was issued 21 telecoms licences, suppressed facts, its authorised share capital was much less than required, and it did not have telecom as the main object clause in its memorandum of association, among other flaws.

The fresh charges come three weeks after India's Supreme Court granted bail to five company executives charged in the same telecoms licensing scandal.