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SFIO begins probe into Aircel on suspicion of siphoning funds

Tarun Sharma
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Aircel, 2 other companies come under SFIO lens

The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) is probing alleged financial irregularities at debt-laden Aircel as well as two group entities -- Aircel Cellular and Dishnet Wireless

Tarun Sharma

Moneycontrol News

The Serious Fraud Investigation Office is investigating shuttered telecom carrier Aircel and its subsidiaries Aircel Cellular and Dishnet Wireless (formerly known as Dishnet DSL) for allegedly siphoning off funds.

A source told Moneycontrol that the MCA’s Registrar of Companies had carried out an extensive investigation into these companies and found several instances of funds being siphoned off.

Aircel and its subsidiaries owe around Rs 50,000 crore in debt -- Rs 15,545 crore to operational creditors and around Rs 35,000 crore to financial operational creditors.

State Bank of India is the lead banker in a consortium of 12 banks.

SFIO may look at Aircel’s books of accounts since the company’s inception when Sivakumar was in control.

“The SFIO has to complete investigation against Aircel in less than two months,” the source told Moneycontrol.

In December 2017, Aircel had told the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that it wanted to surrender licences in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh (West), and that it intended to shut services in these circles from January 31, 2018.

Aircel has been under the scanner of investigation agencies for a while now.

In April, the CBI registered a case against former Aircel promoter C Sivasankaran's companies -- British Virgin Islands-based M/s Axcel Sunshine Limited and Finland-based Win Wind Oy -- for allegedly defaulting on loans worth Rs 600 crore from IDBI Bank.

Separately, Aircel is under investigation for grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to firm M/S Global Communication Holding Services in 2006 for Maxis’ investment in Aircel.

The Supreme Court had on March 12 directed investigating agencies -- the CBI and the ED -- to complete their probe into the 2G spectrum allocation cases, including the Aircel Maxis alleged money laundering case in six months.

The agency had said that the FIPB approval in the Aircel-Maxis FDI case was granted in March 2006 by former finance minister P. Chidambaram although he was authorized to approve project proposals only up to Rs 600 crore. Beyond that, it required the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).