ED files chargesheet against Chidambaram in Aircel-Maxis case

New Delhi (IANS) The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday filed a charge sheet in the Rs 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal case, accusing former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and a few others of laundering Rs 1.16 crore.

The ED has also charged Chidambaram and others for their role in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval in March 2006 to Global Communication and Services Holdings Limited, Mauritius, in violation of various rules and regulations governing the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy in India.

The supplementary prosecution complaint was filed before Special Judge 0.P. Saini, who listed the matter for further hearing on November 26.

The chargesheet named Chidambaram, S. Bhaskararaman, the Chartered Accountant of Chidambaram's son Karti, private persons Augustus Ralph Marshall and V. Srinivasan.

The other accused in the case include companies such as Aircel Televentures Ltd., Astro All Asia Networks Plc Malaysia, Maxis Mobile Services Sdn Bhd, Bumi Armada Berhad, and Bumi Armada Navigation Sdn Bhd.

"As per rules and FDI policy of the government in 2006, Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister, was empowered to give approval to foreign investment proposals worth up to Rs 600 crores only. The foreign investment proposal of Global Communication and Services Holding Limited, Mauritius, was of USD 800 million (Rs 3,650 crore approximately)," the ED said.

The agency alleged that the proposal should have been referred to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), which was the competent authority to give the approval.

"But it was not referred to CCEA, and was approved by Chidambaram under a conspiracy," the agency said.

Claiming that the complaint was on the basis of adequate material evidence in the form of e-mails, and communications retrieved from the seized digital devices from Karti and his associates, the ED filed a voluminous information collected from various sources.

"The material evidence inter-alia reveal routing of proceeds of crimes in the guise of a bonafide business deal by the beneficiaries of illegal FIPB approval in the companies of Karti. The investigation has revealed the financial linkage of Karti and P. Chidambaram," the ED said.

"There are contradictory and evasive responses. Yet, the ED has collected materials that are corroboratory statements recorded under Section 50 of the PMLA from various persons during the investigation to substantiate the offence of money laundering," the agency said.

ED's lawyers N.K. Matta and Nitesh Rana requested the court to take cognisance of the charge sheet and initiate proceedings against the accused.

They also apprised the court that the ED investigation was still on.

On June 13, the ED had filed a charge sheet against Karti and two companies -- Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL) and Chess Management Services Pvt Ltd (CMSPL) -- under various provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The CBI and ED are investigating Karti Chidambaram's alleged role in getting Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance for the Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006 when his father was the Union Finance Minister.

On July 19, the CBI had chargesheeted the former Finance Minister and others as accused in the Aircel-Maxis case, contending that Chidambaram had powers to approve foreign investments only up to Rs 600 crore.

Both Chidambaram and his son Karti, who were granted interim protection from arrest till November 1, have denied the charges.

On August 29, 2014, the CBI had filed a charge sheet in the case alleging that between July 2004 and September 2008, Dayanidhi Maran, as a Minister in the UPA-I government, used his influence to help Malaysian businessman Krishnan buy Aircel by coercing its owner Sivasankaran to part with his stake.

Sivasankaran alleged that Maran favoured the Krishnan-owned Maxis Group in the takeover of his company. In return, he alleged, Maxis made investments through Astro Network, a sister concern, in Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd (SDTPL), owned by the Maran family.

However, a special court had dropped charges against the former Communications Minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi and others in the alleged kickback of Rs 742 crore in the Aircel-Maxis deal, saying the "perception or suspicion" was not backed by concrete evidence.

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