Finally, crooked P Chidambaram is charge sheeted by CBI in Aircel Maxis scam. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday charge sheeted former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and son Karti and nephew A. Palaniappan as accused in the Aircel-Maxis scam. In its 8000-page charge sheet along with documents produced in three trunks before the 2G Special Court, CBI accused Chidambaram for abuse of power and criminal conspiracy and decisions leading to the benefit of son’s firms and under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act.
There are a total of 18 accused including six companies charged as accused by the CBI for the “blatant” violation of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) rules by illegally allowing Malaysian firm Maxis to take over Chennai based mobile phone operator Aircel in 2006. The other accused are former Finance Secretaries Ashok Jha, Ashok Chawla and Maxis owner T Ananda Krishnan and his CEO Ralph Marshall. Kumar Sanjay Krishnan, a former Joint Secretary in Finance Ministry, former Deputy Secretary Deepak Kumar Singh and former Under Secretary Ram Saran and the Aircel CEO V Sreenivasan and Chidambaram family’s Chartered Accountant S Bhaskarraman are also chargesheeted by the CBI.
Karti controlled firms Advantage Strategic Consulting and Chess Management Services are also accused by the CBI of receiving around two million dollars from Maxis and its subsidiaries after father Chidambaram’s “illegal and dubious” FIPB approval. Maxis Group’s four companies Astro All Asia, Maxis Mobile SDM, Bumi Armada Berhad and Bumi Armada Navigation Berhad are also accused for transferring kickback money and lobbying to get “illegal” FIPB clearance.
Submitting the charge sheet before the Judge O P Saini, the Senior Public Prosecutor A K Goel and CBI Investigating Officer S K Sinha told the court that the agency is waiting for Sanction for Prosecution from the Finance Ministry against the five former Finance Ministry officials. The Prosecutor also said the probe on the Apollo Hospital Group linked firm Sindya Securities is going on and that a supplementary charge sheet will be filed in this regard. After a brief argument, Judge O P Saini fixed the matter to July 31 for consideration of the charge sheet.
In the charge sheet the CBI accused Chidambaram of illegally approving the Maxis’s FIPB approval to take over the Aircel in 2006. The foreign investment application of Maxis was above Rs.3600 crores and Chidambaram as FIPB Chairman had the power to approve the FDI upto Rs.600 crores and the proposals above Rs.600 crores has to be submitted to Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). The main charge against Chidambaram was for approving the file without authority and not sending the files to CCEA, which is mandatory.
Another charge was that in those days the maximum foreign investment allowed in telecom sector was 74 percent and Maxis illegally acquired 99.3 percent shares in Aircel. While declaring to the Indian agencies that they took over only 74 percent, Maxis, on the same day declared to the Malaysian Stock Exchange that they took over 99.3 percent shares in Aircel!
CBI also accused that on the same day 74 percent of the shares in Aircel were taken over by Aircel for around Rs.3600 crores while allowing the little known Sindya Securities to take over rest 26 percent shares for just Rs.32 crores.
CBI charged Karti and his firms for accepting around Rs.1.16 crores from Maxis when the files were pending with father Chidambaram. First Rs. 26 lakhs were received by Advantage and the balance amount was received through Chess Management Services.
Aircel-Maxis scam was first exposed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in April 2012 by exposing Karti’s hidden firm Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt. Ltd and its secret subsidiary in Singapore. Swamy at a press conference in April 26, 2012 press conference produced documents of money trail of Rs.26 lakh with Karti’s firm and Aircel Televenture.
In May 2012, Subramanian Swamy approached Supreme Court’s 2G Bench accusing CBI for probing Chidambaram’s violations in the FIPB approval. In March 2018, the Supreme Court directed CBI and ED to finish the probe within six months. The Enforcement Directorate had already attached Karti’s bank accounts for the Rs.1.16 crore kickbacks under money laundering in October 2017 and filed a charge sheet in the 2G Court and is expected to file a charge sheet against Chidambaram soon. The ED told the court that their interrogation on Chidambaram was pending and file a charge sheet soon.