Maran brothers discharged in Aircel-Maxis case

Court drops all charges of corruption

Maran brothers discharged in Aircel-Maxis case
A special court on Thursday discharged former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi in the Aircel-Maxis deal case. The court dropped all charges of corruption and money-laundering against them. Also discharged are Kalanithi’s wife Kaveri and K Shanmugam, managing director of South Asia FM, in a money-laundering case involving more than Rs 742 crore.

While the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probed the graft case against the Maran brothers, the money-laundering case was investigated by the Enforcement Department, on the basis of the CBI case. The genesis of the case lies in a complaint by Aircel owner C Sivasankaran, saying he was forced by Dayanidhi to sell his stakes to Malaysia-based Maxis Group, owned by tycoon T Ananda Krishnan.

Probing the case, the CBI accused Dayanidhi of forcing Sivasankaran to sell Aircel to the Malaysian company. Maxis Group, which bought a 74% stake in Aircel in March 2006, invested Rs 742 crore in Sun Direct, owned by the Maran family, between 2007 and 2009.

The court, however, found no evidence to substantiate the charges. The investigation agencies are likely to challenge the CBI court order in the Supreme Court. “The entire case is based on (a) misreading of the official files, contradictory statements of the witnesses, as well as speculations and surmises of C Sivasankaran... Accordingly, all accused stand discharged,” Special CBI Judge OP Saini said in his 424-page order in the main case.

“This is a dangerous trend.... If such (a) practice is followed, anybody and everybody in the government can be made to face prosecution,” he remarked. The sleuths had charged Maxis with making investments through Astro Network into Sun Direct. Based on the CBI case, the ED later submitted a charge sheet, accusing the Marans and others of laundering Rs 742.58 crore in the deal.

“When there is no existence of proceeds of crime, there is no question of (the) same being laundered or projected as untainted,” the judge held in a 76-page order.

Order defered 6 times
The court discharged the Maran brothers and others after deferring its order six times since November 30. Kaveri and Shanmugam were accused only in the money-laundering case.

In his response to the court’s verdict, Dayanidhi said, “This was a witchhunt against me. I hope nobody goes through an ordeal like this.” Another case against Krishnan and Augustus Ralph Marshall, another Malaysian national, remains.
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