India 'telecoms scam': Andimuthu Raja in court

India's former Telecom Minister A Raja at the Central Bureau of Investigation in Delhi on 24 December 2010 A Raja quit in November amid what has been described as India's biggest corruption investigation

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India's former telecoms minister Andimuthu Raja has appeared in court in connection with a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal.

Mr Raja is accused of selling mobile phone licenses to firms at a fraction of their real value in exchange for bribes in 2008. He denies wrongdoing.

Auditors estimate his actions could have cost the country nearly $40bn (£24.5bn) in lost revenue.

The issue of corruption has become a major talking point in India.

Mr Raja was forced to resign as telecommunications minister last year. He was arrested in February and has been in prison since.

Mr Raja is on trial along with eight others, including two former bureaucrats. The special court is expected to hold daily hearings in one of the most high-profile trials in India.

The former minister has been charged with conspiracy, forgery and abuse of power.

If convicted, he faces seven years in prison.

The telecoms scandal has badly damaged the reputation of the government, which has been hit by a series of corruption scandals, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi reports.

Last week, wide public protests led by an anti-corruption crusader pushed the authorities to begin proceedings to strengthen India's anti-graft laws.

India has the world's fastest growing mobile market, with about half a billion subscribers.

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