The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday charge sheeted the tainted former Finance Minister P Chidambaram as accused for money laundering and conspiring with foreign investors in the Aircel-Maxis scam. The agency also named Chidambaram family’s chartered accountant Bhaskararaman, Maxis CEO and Malaysian citizen Ralph Marshal and former CEO of Aircel V Srinivasan. Maxis Group’s four subsidiary firms were also indicted as accused for money laundering and routing kickbacks. The ED had already charge sheeted Chidambaram’s son Karti and nephew Palaniyappan and their firms as accused on June 13. After hearing Prosecutor’s preliminary arguments, Judge O P Saini has fixed November 26 for consideration for the charge sheet.
The nine persons and firms indicted as accused are charged for money laundering of Rs.1.16 crores in lieu of illegal approval by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) accorded by the former minister in March 2006. ED also said that further proceeds of crime were tracked down and attached the Rs.55 crores worth properties and farm houses of Karti in Delhi, Ooty, London and Spain.
Reacting to the ED’s action, petitioner and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy congratulated ED Chief Karnal Singh and Investigating Officer Rajeshwar Singh. Swamy also accused Finance Secretary “crooked” Hasmukh Adhia for withholding Rajeshwar Singh’s promotion as Additional Director for over a year.
The companies named in the charge sheet filed before Special Judge O P Saini are: Astro All Asia Networks Plc Malaysia, Aircel Televentures Ltd, Maxis Mobile Services Sdn Bhd, Bumi Armada Berhad, Bumi Armada Navigation Sdn Bhd. The Astrol All Asia Netwroks is already fixed by ED for illegal money trail with NDTV. This money trail of more than 500 crore happened during the Aircel-Maxis scam and there were allegations that this more than Rs.500 crore actually belong to Chidambaram who decided park the ill-gotten money in his favorite TV channel NDTV. Along with Prannoy Roy and wife and CEO and TV anchor Vikram Chandra, Astro All Asia is facing FEMA violation charges.
In its charge sheet ED said that approval was given to the foreign investor Global Communication and Services Holdings Limited, Mauritius in violation of the various rules and regulations governing the FDI policy in India. “As per rules and FDI policy of Government of India in 2006, Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister was empowered to give approval of the foreign investment to the proposals involving foreign investment up to Rs 600 crore only. The foreign investment proposal of Global Communication
and Services Holdings Limited was of USD 800 million which amounts to Rs 3,560 crore approximately (when 1 USD was Rs 44.5).
“The foreign investment proposal of Global Communication and Services Holdings Limited should have been referred to Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) but it was not done and approved by Chidambaram under a conspiracy,” said the ED, filing the second supplementary charge sheet frilled on Thursday.
ED has charged the accused under sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. If found guilty, they would be liable to a jail term of up to seven years along with fine. The agency said the charge sheet is based on adequate material evidences which are in the form of email communications retrieved from the seized digital devices from Karti and his associates.
The material evidences reveal routing of proceeds of crime in the guise of bonafide business deals by the beneficiaries of illegal FIPB approval in the companies of Karti. The investigation has revealed the financial linkage of Karti and P Chidambaram with these companies, said ED’s prosecutors.
“There are contradictory and evasive responses, in spite of that ED has collected materials that is corroboratory statements recorded under Section 50 of the PMLA from various persons during the investigation to substantiate the offence of money laundering,” ED said. Advocates N K Matta and Nitesh Rana appeared for the ED in the court.
CBI had already charge sheeted Chidambaram and son along with four IAS officers and Maxis owners on July 19.
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