Even as former finance minister P Chidambaram defended his decision to clear the Aircel-Maxis deal, the CBI on Monday insisted that he has committed a “mistake” and that the matter is under investigation.
The agency made these claims before a special CBI court hearing the case. The CBI filed a charge sheet in the case last month where it claimed that former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran had coerced Aircel owner C Sivasankaran to sell it to Malaysia-based Maxis.
Grounds for approval
The CBI said it was investigating as to how Chidambaram had given the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval in the Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006 as the finance minister was competent to give approval of up to Rs 600 crore only.
The agency argued that the deal was worth $ 800 million (around Rs 3,500 crore). The matter should have been referred to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
“It further revealed that the finance minister was competent to accord approval on project proposals up to Rs 600 crore and beyond that it requires CCEA approval. In the instant case, the approval for FDI of $ 800 million was sought. Hence, CCEA was competent to grant approval. However, it was not obtained,” the charge sheet has said.
Officials, who worked in the Finance Ministry at the time of clearing the deal in 2006, have claimed that the face value of equity was considered and not the total investment inflow in deciding the competent authority for approving the proposal.
They claimed that the face value of investment was Rs 300 crore, though the total investment stood at around Rs 3,500 crore.
In a statement on Friday, Chidambaram defended his decision, saying it was done according to the rules. “I am sure the files will bear out the correctness of this position,” he had said.
The charge sheet says that the Maran brothers received Rs 742 crore as “illegal gratification” for forcing Sivasankaran to sell Aircel to Maxis. Maran and former joint secretary, late J S Sharma, “deliberately delayed” grant of licences in seven telecom circles before the deal was struck.