The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), on 19 July, filed a fresh chargesheet in the Aircel-Maxis case, listing former Finance Minister P Chidambaram as an accused in the long running case, reported ANI. Chidambaram’s son Karti was already an accused in the case. The chargesheet, which was filed in Delhi’s Patiala House Court by the CBI, lists 18 accused in the case, including P Chidambaram and Karti. The chargesheet will be examined by the court on 31 July.
According to ANI, the chargesheet states that the CBI had found two new sets of money trails regarding the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance. Questions over whether Chidambaram had followed protocol and was competent to give the FIPB sanction that he provided for the foreign investment in Aircel was the reason for the CBI’s examination into Chidambaram.
Some government officials, both retired and currently in service, have also been named in the CBI’s fresh chargesheet, reported ANI.
The Aircel-Maxis controversy, a case which has been carrying on since 2011, has its roots in the 2G spectrum ‘scam’. This is how the case has played out over the years.
The Origins of the Case
March 2006: Malaysian firm Maxis acquires Aircel by buying a 74 percent stake in it.
2007-2009: Maxis allegedly invests Rs 742 crore in Sun Direct, a company chaired by former Telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran’s brother, Kalanithi Maran.
April 2011: Sivasankaran complains to the CBI, alleging that Dayanidhi Maran had arm-twisted him in 2006 into selling his company to Maxis.
October 2011: CBI files a case against Dayanidhi Maran on the basis of Sivasankaran’s complaint. The FIR also states that a company owned by Kalanithi had received an amount of Rs 549 crore for facilitating the Aircel-Maxis deal. It further alleges that Astro, the sister company of Maxis, invested Rs 629 crore in Sun TV to buy 20 percent of its stake.
August 2014: On 29 August, the CBI files a chargesheet against the Marans, T Ananda Krishnan, the owner of Maxis, Ralph Marshall, a senior executive of the Maxis Group, and four companies, including Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd. The Maran brothers face charges of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
P Chidambaram’s ‘Involvement’ in the Case
December 2014: The CBI examines former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram in connection with the case, questioning whether he was competent for giving Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) sanction for the foreign investment in Aircel since he could only sanction investment upto Rs 600 crore. The Aircel-Maxis deal was worth Rs 3,500 crore, which they argue needed approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) also suspects that P Chidambaram’s son Karti received kickbacks for the FIPB approval. The agency alleges that a payment of Rs 26 lakh was made by Aircel Televentures Limited to Advanced Strategic Consulting (ASCPL), a firm allegedly linked to Karti, within a few days of the FIPB approval. Chidambaram, however, claims that he had followed protocol in approving the investment.
April 2015: On 1 April, the ED attaches assets estimated at Rs. 742.58 crore held by Dayanidhi Maran, Kalanithi Maran and the latter’s wife Kaveri Kalanithi.
August 2015: On 25 August, the ED summons two directors of the firm ASCPL in relation to the Rs 26 lakh transaction between the latter and Aircel Televentures. The purpose of the transaction as well as possible links to Karti is probed.
December 2015: Tax officials and the ED raid the premises of some business associates of Karti.
CBI And ED Cases Before Special Judge OP Saini
February 2016: The ED files a separate chargesheet in the case, names the Maran brothers, Kavery Kalanithi and three others, including two companies, as accused.
November 2016: On 20 November, the special CBI court, presided over by Judge OP Saini, reserves order on the issue of framing charges.
January 2017: The Supreme Court threatens to cancel Aircel’s 2G license if Krishnan continues to avoid appearing before the special court. It gives 27 January as the deadline for him to appear in court. On 9 January, special judge OP Saini defers framing of charges to 18 January.
February 2017: In a surprising turn of events, the special court drops all charges brought by both the CBI and the ED against all the accused in the Aircel-Maxis case.
Investigation into the Chidambarams
April 2017: The CBI informs the SC that it is investigating P Chidambaram’s role in the alleged irregularities in grant of FIPB approval in the Aircel-Maxis case, and alleged payments to Karti.
September 2017: On 14 September, Karti refuses to appear before the CBI saying that charges against all the accused had been dropped in February. On 25 September, the ED attaches Karti’s assets worth Rs 1.16 crore. The agency alleges that he was trying to close his bank accounts. On 26 September, the CBI seeks his appearance for questioning on 4 October.
October 2017: On 4 October, Karti moves the SC, challenging the summons issued to him by the CBI, saying that they would tarnish his image and that of his family’s.
December 2017: On 1 December, the ED searches the premises of a close relative of Karti and others.
January 2018: The ED conducts searches on Chennai and Delhi premises linked to Karti.
April 2018: The ED records Karti’s statements on 10 April. It says the questioning was done under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). On 16 April, Karti is extended interim protection from arrest till 2 May in the CBI and ED cases.
June 2018: On 5 June, P Chidambaram appears before the ED for questioning, an hour after he is extended interim protection from arrest till 10 July. He is grilled for more than six hours and directed to join the probe whenever required. On 12 June, he appears before the ED for the second time for a round of questioning. In a chargesheet filed by ED on 13 June, the agency names Karti and four others as accused under section 4 of the PMLA. 4 July is given as the next date of the hearing. Karti already has been given interim protection from arrest till 10 July.
On 25 June, the SC agrees to hear a fresh plea filed by BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy, seeking to implead himself as a party in a petition that was filed against an ED investigating officer involved in the Aircel-Maxis case, reported PTI. The relevant petition had been filed by Rajneesh Kapur against ED officer Rajeshwar Singh, alleging that Singh had amassed disproportionate assets beyond known sources of his income.
On 27 June, the apex court allows the government to probe the ‘serious charges’ against Singh, lifting the protection earlier granted to Singh against the enquiry. The bench leaves it to the government to decide whether Singh would have any further role to play in the probe.
(With inputs from Livemint, PTI, The Hindu and Hindustan Times.)
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