You are here: Home » Current Affairs » News » National
Business Standard

Aircel-Maxis case: CBI pressured to file charge sheet, says Chidambaram

Besides Chidambaram and Karti, the CBI also named 10 individuals, including public servants, and six companies as accused in the case

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

P Chidambaram
Former finance minister P Chidambaram | PTI Photo

The CBI on Thursday filed a charge sheet against leader and his son Karti for alleged irregularities and criminal conspiracy in the Aircel-Maxis deal case.

The supplementary charge sheet was filed before special CBI judge O P Saini who fixed it for consideration on July 31. Besides Chidambaram and Karti, the CBI also named 10 individuals, including public servants, and six companies as accused in the case.

The charge sheet was filed for the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), public servant taking illegal gratification, punishment for abetting this offence and public servant committing criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act, sources said.

If convicted, the offences entail a maximum punishment of seven years.

The agency has alleged that when foreign investment in Aircel by Malaysian telecom major Maxis was cleared by the ministry in March 13, 2006, a payment of Rs 2.6 million was made by Aircel to Chennai-based Advantage Strategic Consulting, officials said.

It is alleged that Advantage Strategic Consulting was indirectly controlled by Karti and had raised an invoice on March 29, 2006 against which Aircel made a payment on April 1, 2006.

The CBI has alleged that Chess Management Services Holding Ltd, a company in which Karti is promoter and director, also received Rs 8.7 million in several installments from an associate company of Maxis, they said.

While the payment of Rs 2.6 million to Advantage Strategic Consulting was shown as fee for market research, Rs 8.7 million to Chess Management was shown as fee for a software, the CBI alleged in the charge sheet, officials said.

During investigation, the agency asked Chess Management officials and Karti to produce the software which was allegedly provided to Maxis for a fee but they could not produce any such software, they said alleging that it was a bribe for the clearance of foreign investment proposal which was laced with several irregularities.

Reacting to the developments, Chidambaram said he will "vigorously" contest the case in the court.

"CBI has been pressured to file a charge sheet to support a preposterous allegation against me and officers with a sterling reputation," he tweeted.

Chidambaram said the case is now before a court and he shall "make no more public comment"," he said.

According to the sources, the CBI is yet to obtain sanction to prosecute the public servants.

The agency said this is a fresh charge sheet in the matter even as it stems from the FIR related to Aircel-Maxis deal registered in 2012 in which the then telecom minister and others have been charged and later discharged by a trial court. The CBI has filed an appeal against the court order.

The officials said this is a completely separate aspect of the case related to clearance of now defunct Foreign Investment Promotion Board, under Ministry, to the foreign investment clearance of Maxis in Aircel.

Among others listed in the charge sheet are the then secretary (economic affairs) Ashok Jha, the then additional secretary Ashok Chawla, the then joint secretary in ministry Kumar Sanjay Krishna, and the then director in the ministry Dipak Kumar Singh.

The agency has also named in the charge sheet former CEO of Aircel V Srinivasan, nephew of Chidambaram A Palaniappan who was also the promoter of Chess Management Services, Malaysian nationals Ananda Krishnan Tatparanandam, Augustus Ralph Marshall, both linked with Maxis, one S Bhaskaraman, and the then under secretary in the ministry Ram Sharan, they said.

The six companies listed as accused are Chess Management Services Holding Ltd, Chennai-based Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd and Malaysian companies Astro All Asia Networks, Maxis Mobile, Bumi Armada Berhad and Bumi Armada Navigation.

The agency has charged all the accused for alleged criminal conspiracy, bribery and abuse of official position.

It is alleged that FIPB approval in the Aircel-Maxis FDI case was granted in March 2006 by Chidambaram even though he was empowered to accord approval on project proposals only up to Rs 6 billion and beyond that it required the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

The agency has alleged that file notings show that Foreign Investment Promotion Board considered investment clearance for the purchase of 180 million shares of Aircel at the rate of Rs 10 per share by Maxis totalling to Rs 1.8 billion.

However, the premium attached with each share, which took total investment to over Rs 32 billion, was not brought on files, they said alleging that it was done to avoid Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

The available files on the matter show that the matters related to the investment were "actively discussed" between official hierarchy involved, they said.

Due application of mind was exercised at every level for granting this clearance even at the level of Finance Minister, the officials said.

The agency has recently questioned Chidambaram in connection with the case, they said.

First Published: Thu, July 19 2018. 22:46 IST