Chennai: In a case related to the 2G telecom spectrum allocation scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday filed a charge sheet, naming the Maran brothers — Dayanidhi and Kalanithi.
Dayanidhi Maran is the third Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP and the second former minister in the United Progressive Alliance government to be chargesheeted in the scam. Earlier, A Raja and Kanimozhi were in judicial custody for several months.
The investigative agency told a special CBI court Malaysia-based Maxis Communication had paid a bribe for telecom licences in the garb of investment in a company run by business tycoon Kalanithi Maran. The licences were granted during Dayanidhi Maran’s term as telecom minister (2004-2007).
Evidence for the charge sheet was brought to the court in nine trunks; the documents could not be fully scanned due to paucity of time.
Besides the Maran brothers, the CBI named Augustus Ralph Marshall and T Ananda Krishnan for criminal conspiracy, under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The same charges were mentioned against Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd, UK-based Astro All Asia Network Plc, Malaysia-based Maxis Communication Bhd, and Mauritius-based South Asia Entertainment Holdings Ltd. While Marshall is deputy chairman of Astro and director of Maxis, Krishnan is a Malaysia-based billionaire and philanthropist who owns Maxis. Kalanithi Maran is the promoter of Sun TV.
In its charge sheet, filed before special CBI judge O P Saini, the agency also named former telecom secretary J S Sarma, who died during the course of the investigation.
“We have got enough evidence in the case. The total bribe money paid to the Marans, through equity purchase, was about Rs 600 crore,” a senior CBI official said on condition of anonymity.
AIRCEL-MAXIS: THE STORY SO FAR
Dec 31: Aircel sold to T Ananda Krishnan-promoted Maxis Communications and Sindya Securities & Investments Pvt Ltd owned by Suneetha Reddy and husband P Dwarakanath Reddy. Suneetha is Apollo promoter Prathap Reddy’s daughter
Dec: Maxis gets licence for all telecom circles
Apr: Astro All Asia Networks, a Maxis group arm, acquires 20% stake in Sun Direct for $166 million
Nov: Astro further invests Rs 396 crore in Kalanithi’s Maran’s Kal Media Services; increases its stake in Sun Direct to 35%
June: Aircel promoter C Sivasankaran tells CBI he was forced by DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran to sell his stake in Aircel to Maxis
July: Maran resigns as textile minister
Oct: CBI registers FIR against Maran, brother and Sun TV promoter Kalanithi Maran and T Ananda Krishnan, among others
Apr: Supreme Court gives CBI three months to wind up probe and present status report
Nov: Differences on charge sheet within CBI; matter referred to attorney general
Jul: AG Mukul Rohatgi asks CBI to prosecute Marans, as there is incriminating evidence
“The investigation revealed Maran had allegedly abused his official position and constricted the business environment of Chennai-based private firm on frivolous grounds, with the intent to force its exit from telecom business and its sale to a Malaysia-based company. After the change of ownership, the requests/approvals pending since long before the Department of Telecommunications were acceded to and undue favour was given to these companies after such a transfer, for which an alleged illegal gratification of Rs 549 crore was paid by a UK-based company to a Chennai-based TV company in the garb of a purchase of its shares at a premium of Rs 69.57
“The aspect of the irregularity in grant of FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) approval to the Mauritius-based company and the role of the Indian partner company of Chennai in holding 26 per cent equity of the Chennai-based company is being further investigated,” it added.
The Marans and a Sun TV spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment. Mails sent to Maxis and Aircel did not elicit any response till the time of going to press.
CBI court judge Saini will take cognisance of the charge sheet on September 11 and will summon the accused accordingly. A judge can reject an investigation if he doesn’t find enough merit in the charge sheet at this level.
Following a directive of the Supreme Court, the CBI had registered a criminal case on 2G scam in October 2011. The apex court, which is monitoring all investigations related to the case, had told the CBI to probe the grant of all telecom licences between 2001 and 2007.
Investigation in this case began after C Sivasankaran complained to the CBI that Dayanidhi Maran had coerced him to sell his telecom company Aircel to Maxis, before granting Aircel 14 telecom licences. He added Dayanidhi hadn’t cleared the licences to his company until it was sold to Maxis. It was alleged in return, Maxis, through Astro, bought stake in the Kalanithi-run Sun TV at a value much higher than the prevailing market rate.
In its charge sheet, the CBI said there was unnecessary delay in granting licences to Aircel, adding undue haste was shown when the company was sold to Maxis. Marshall, earlier part of both Maxis and Astro boards, played a key role in clearing the deal.
Earlier, Business Standard had reported Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had disagreed with CBI Director Ranjit Sinha on filing a charge sheet in the case — while Rohatgi favoured the move, Sinha felt there wasn’t enough material to pursue a chargesheet.
In November 2013, the agency had referred the matter to Rohatgi’s predecessor, G E Vahanvati, but didn’t get a response. K K Venugopal, the CBI’s counsel in the case in the Supreme Court, had earlier told the court the Malaysian government had declined to part with information on the matter, saying “no criminality of T Ananda Krishnan has been established”, which further weakened the CBI’s argument.