Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti were collateral damage in a controversy that began in 2011 with roving entrepreneur C Sivasankaran complaining that he had been “forced” by former Union communications minister Dayanidhi Maran to sell his telecom company Aircel to Malaysian company Maxis. The quid pro quo: a Maxis sister company had invested billions in the Maran family’s media conglomerate Sun TV. During this probe, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) questioned Chidambaram on whether he was competent to approve the deal via the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).
The FIPB could sanction foreign direct investment deal worth up to Rs 1.2 billion. The Maxis deal was worth much more, and should have gone up to the Cabinet. At the same time, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) came upon a money trail that suggested that companies owned by Karti had received kickbacks from a Maxis associate company, possibly for facilitating the FIPB clearance. Early last year, the special courts abruptly dropped all charges against the Marans. But CBI’s probe into Chidambaram’s role continued. In November this year, the CBI told a local court that it has received sanction to prosecute Chidambaram.
And the ED is pursuing a charge sheet filed against him in October. Chidambaram pere and fils say there is no wrongdoing, have been interrogated several times and been granted several applications for anticipatory bail. With an ED officer involved in the case facing an enquiry for corruption and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy threatening to withdraw from all cases filed against Chidambaram if the ED officer concerned is removed, this story will stay on the front pages in 2019.