- Court gets update on investigation into Aircel sale in 2006 to Maxis
- Ex Finance Minister Chidambaram says did not clear the sale illicitly
- Subramanian Swamy says 3,500-crore deal needed cabinet approval
Yesterday, the ED submitted a confidential report to a Delhi court on whether Mr Chidambaram should have cleared the deal. In a separate charge-sheet, which lays out early evidence against the accused, the CBI has said that it is also looking at Mr Chidambaram's role in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
In 2006, Aircel was sold to Maxis, owned by Malaysian billionaire T Ananda Krishnan. The owner of Aircel, C Sivasankaran, alleged that he had been coerced by Dayanidhi Maran, who was then Telecom Minister, to sell his stake to Maxis. The CBI said that Mr Maran was in return given a kickback worth over 700 crores, which was routed to Sun TV, owned by his media mogul brother, Kalanidhi Maran. But last month, the court trying the case said there was no evidence to back this, and dropped all charges against the Marans. The CBI says it will appeal against this verdict.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy alleges that Mr Chidambaram cleared the deal unilaterally instead of routing it through the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs, which signs off on deals involving foreign investments of over 600 crores. The Aircel-Maxis deal was worth about 3,500 crores.
But Mr Chidambaram, who is a Rajya Sabha MP, said that the deal was sent for approval to him by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board or FIPB, which reports to the Finance Ministry. In his defence, Mr Chidambaram said, "FIPB consists of five Secretaries to the Government of India..who.... submitted the case to the Finance Minister and sought approval. As FM, I granted approval in the normal course of business.''
He also said that the CBI has acquired statements "from every official who dealt with the case" and that all of them "affirmed that the case was rightly submitted to the Finance Minister who was the competent authority.''