Is It Nemesis? Chidambaram Charge-Sheeted By CBI
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been probing the role of Chidambaram in allowing foreign investment by a Mauritius-based company, according to its charge sheet in the Aircel-Maxis deal
The ghost from the past is back to haunt the strongman former Finance Minister P. Chidam-baram and his son Karti. His wife Nalini too has been questioned in the Saradha chit-fund case. Sources say that Chidambaram is also likely to be interviewed by the CBI officials.
Or should one say that the nemesis is catching up and the family is in quite a bother. This is putting it mildly. Because if the charges made against the former Minister are upheld by the court, he could face incarceration.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been probing the role of Chidambaram in allowing foreign investment by a Mauritius-based company, according to its charge sheet in the Aircel-Maxis deal, filed on August 29 in Patiala Court.
In fact, the CBI chief Ranjit Sinha okayed probe into allegations against Chidambaram and son while Lok Sabha polls were still on. Reports reveal that on May 5 this year, when just two phases of the Lok Sabha elections were still to be held, Sinha signed a key 2G file on the Aircel-Maxis case. His “may please be seen’’ notation just before the one by CBI Additional Director R K Dutta was significant because the latter wrote “As discussed with DCBI yesterday, the file has been put up for orders of DCBI on paras 459-461…’’
In the file, at the end of the note of the Additional Director, a further probe was sought on the plea that allegations against the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram in connection with the Aircel-Maxis deal—as part of a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the allocation of 2G spectrum—were to be looked into.
There is no hint of a political vendetta. The only thing is that once the government at the Centre changed, developments in the case were reportedly put on fast track. Once the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi gave a go, the CBI filed its charge sheet on August 29.
Who Is Tak And Mrs Tak
The telecom company Aircel providing mobile phone wireless services using 2G and 3G spectrum. was until 2006 wholly owned by a Tamil Nadu-based capitalist, Sivasankaran, but by January 2006 it came to be owned by a Malaysia-born citizen, T. Ananda Krishnan, popularly called TAK. He is the son of a Sri Lankan Tamil immigrant who arrived as indentured plantation worker.
- Ananda Krishnan’s second wife is Latchoumie (Lakshmi?) Marie Helene (LMH), born to a white French father who belongs to the Le Chateau Briand family, and Tamil mother. She is popularly known as Mme ‘TAK’.
“TAK made his fortune first in gambling casinos and allegedly laundering LTTE drug and extortion loot garnered by the terrorist organisation treasurer K. Padmanabhan (now in Sri Lanka custody), and then branched into construction, etc., to become a powerful and influential person in Malaysia,” alleged Subramaniam Swamy, in his complaint about Chidambaram.
Swamy further alleges that TAK “helped Quatrrocchi grease the system in that country and escape the law because of the CBI’s deliberately chosen counsel. “Mme. TAK, according to my usually reliable sources in Paris, is the owner of a very big art gallery, La Fantaisie, which can be described as the Christie’s in France. Carla Bruni, the Italian wife of former French President Sarkozy, is a partner in this venture for two years.
“Mrs. TAK is also the owner of a sophisticated music recording house in Paris. Carla, who is also a pop singer, uses Mrs. TAK’s studios for registration and issue of her albums.
“Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul, and her sisters are frequent visitors. Whenever Rahul goes to France, he stays with Mrs. TAK. He had been there a-month-and-half back,” alleged Swamy.
“Mrs. TAK is also the owner of vine yards in northern Colombia with joint ownership with the Colombian rich families Bettancourt and Katalli. Rahul Gandhi’s former live-in friend Veronique is connected to the Kattalli cartel.
“Mrs. TAK is also one of the major shareholders in the French aeronautical company, Dassault, whose fighter aircraft Rafaele, though rejected worldwide, was bought by India’s Defence Ministry for a hefty…” (VD)
It now transpires that the CBI, besides going into allegations against former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanidhi Maran and others, also looked into allegations against Chidambaram and his son, repeatedly stating that fresh allegations had been levelled by Subramanian Swamy.
Swamy alleged: “The Indian owner of Aircel, Sivasankaran, is a financial buccaneer, working always on the edge. In 2005, after getting spectrum licence, and short of funds, he put it out that he was looking for foreign direct investment (FDI).
Maxis approached him incognito through the Standard Chartered Bank. It is now alleged in an FIR of the CBI that at that stage the then Telecom Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, entered the scene. According to Justice Shivraj Patil Report (available on the DoT website), Maran misused his office to arm-twist Sivasankaran to sell all his shares in Aircel to Maxis in January 2006. Whether that was a drama by Maran and Sivasankaran or real, only the Supreme Court inquiry will reveal. Sivasankaran, however, agreed to sell.”
The Investigating Officer, SP and DIG had in their file opinions stated the matter—whether the Finance Minister was the competent authority to give approval to Maxis subsidiary Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd to invest $800 million in Aircel Ltd in 2006—should be referred to either the finance ministry or the Reserve Bank of India for further examination, the senior officers, namely the Joint Director, Additional Director and the Director, wrote on file that a further probe should be done by the agency.
A Few Extracts From Dr Subramaniam Swamy Complaint
Endangers national security
The Aircel-Maxis deal… impinges on India’s national security as did Swan-Etisalat and Unitech-Telenor deals. Telecom towers and equipment can do cyber warfare, snoop on closed door conversations and read e-mail.
The Maxis owner’s police trouble
The Indonesian Police issued an arrest warrant against Maxis CEO Roy Marshall for fraud, cheating, and money laundering in another connected company Astro. Its money trail leads to a favourite English news TV channel. Marshall is also a Sri Lankan Tamil, and has played host to PC’s wife Nalini when the deal was being brokered.
Allegations against Chidambaram as Swamy alleges:
So, what is the criminal offence? The biggest is the bogus FIPB clearance. Chidambaram has committed offence of criminal misconduct under Section 13(1)(d)(iii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act which has a provision of seven-year jail term. Ditto with Maran, Karthi, and maybe Sivasankaran too under sub-Section (ii), read with IPC 120A&B.
The Equity Manipulation?
A harassed Sivasankaran agreed to sell. But there was a problem: FDI rules require an Indian partner to hold at least 26 per cent of the equity for the deal to be okayed by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). Three months earlier to January 2006, it was at least 51 per cent, i.e., an Indian must be majority partner. Maran got that changed to just 26 per cent and the Indian partner to be in minority. But Maxis owner TAK would have none of that. He wanted Aircel to be a wholly-owned company of his. That was against FDI rules. So, Maran was in a fix. His brother and owner of Sun TV, Kalanidhi, was promised Rs 800-crore bounty for his media venture by TAK, and he was salivating furiously.
Enter P. Chidambaran (PC), the …..Ibrahim of Indian finance and Jesus Christ in Lok Sabha. He was then as finance minister, which meant the ex-officio chairman of the FIPB. ……In January 2008, PC had advised A. Raja on “share dilution” which landed the former telecom minister in Tihar. Similarly, Chidambaram advised Maran to devise a trick: form a joint venture with a young ambitious entrepreneur, all expenses paid. Thus they found Sunita Reddy part owner of Apollo Hospital.
Thus Deccan Ventures came into being, but it was joint only in name. By using a financial derivative, Maxis owned all of it. With the money thus put in, Deccan purchased 26 per cent of Aircel. TAK declared proudly to the Malaysian Stock Exchange and to his company shareholders’ meeting that he had bought 99.3 per cent of Aircel equity (0.7 per cent still left with Sivasankaran) and thus de jure Aircel became a wholly owned company of Maxis.
TAK filed for permission with FIPB as a 74 per cent owner and got it cleared in March 2006. But there was a catch. PC did not like it that Maran had decamped with the bribe loot. So, the March 2006 FIPB clearance was not made in the name of Global Communications, a wholly-owned company of Maxis, but in the name of some US company. Then PC sat on the file while TAK sweated with the thought of being so near yet so far.
Enter son Karthi, fixer…Through a maze of crossholdings, he acquires at least 5 per cent of the Aircel shares before father PC reconvenes the FIPB in October 2006, deletes the name of the US company, and puts the TAK company as the 74 per cent owner of Aircel equity. Karthi’s wife, Dr. Srinidhi, starts working as a consulting doctor with Apollo Hospital. All are happy now. (VD)
One Joint Director wrote in October 2013, that further investigation was needed to probe “the malafide, if any’’ in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to investments of $800 million since it was “beyond the competency of the Finance Ministry and other circumstances related to it’’. This was followed by R K Dutta’s noting a day later in which he described the FIPB approval.
He stated that the CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) should have given the approval: “It is seen that in the same round of FIPB clearances, two proposals were recommended for consideration of CCEA as the investments in these proposals were more than Rs 600 crores. In such a case, giving clearance to investment of Rs 3,560 crores looks suspicious.’’
All senior officers, namely the Joint Director, Additional Director and the Director, wrote on file that a further probe should be done by the agency. One officer suggested that a further investigation be conducted to see whether the decision taken by the Finance Minister was “malafide’’ or “inadvertent’’.
The focus on Karti, son of Chidambaram, was a natural corollary. The same Additional Director discussed at length allegations against Karti and asked that these should also “be looked into further’’ since ongoing investigations had not explained a financial transaction of Rs 26,00,444 between Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd and Aircel Televentures.
He alleged that linkages between the two companies to which Karti Chidambaram’s name has been linked—Ausbridge Holdings and Investments Pvt Ltd and Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd—and the transfer of shares between them “needs to be looked into’’ and also whether Karti Chidambaram had anything to do with Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd.
P Chidambaram, reacting to the allegations in the charge sheet, issued a statement: “The FIPB is chaired by the Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs. It recommends proposals for the approval of the Finance Minister and, where required under the rules, the approval of the CCEA.
“In the Aircel-Maxis case, the FIPB sought the approval of the Finance Minister in accordance with the rules. The case was submitted through the Additional Secretary and Secretary, DEA. Both of them recommended the case for approval. Approval was granted by me, as Finance Minister, in the normal course. I understand that the officials of the FIPB who dealt with the matter have explained to the CBI that under the rules, as they stood then, the case required only the approval of the Finance Minister. I am sure the files will bear out the correctness of this position,” Chidambaram said “However, the approval was granted by the then finance minister (Chidambaram),” the CBI’s charge sheet said. “Further investigation is being carried out into the circumstances of the said FIPB approval granted by then finance minister. The related issues are being investigated.” It added that Sindhya Securities and Investments Pvt Ltd, the Indian partner of Mauritius-based Maxis Communic-ation Bhd, acquired approximately 26 per cent equity of Aircel Ltd. through Deccan Digital Networks Pvt Ltd for a consideration of approximately $7.43 million which gives it just 0.01 per cent economic interest in Aircel Ltd.
CBI explained that Deccan Digital was a joint venture between Sindhya Securities and Investments and Global Communication Services Holding, the Mauritius Subsidiary of Maxis Communication Bhd. Malaysia.
The CBI added that it appears that Maxis has given a lot of concessions to the promoters of Sindhya Securities and Investments in terms of investments.“Further investigation is being carried out if Sindhya Securities and Investments is holding 26 percent equity in Aircel Ltd. on behalf of the accused,” the CBI said. It was alleged by Sivasankaran that Dayanidhi Maran favoured Maxis Group in the takeover of his company and in return, the company made investments through Astro Network in a company stated to be owned by the Maran family.
Four companies—Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd, Britain-based Astro All Asia Networks Plc, Maxis Commu-nications Berhad in Malaysia, and South Asia Entertainment Holdings Ltd in Mauritius—have been also named in the charge-sheet filed Aug 29.
By Vijay Dutt