ED names Chidambaram in Aircel-Maxis chargesheet

ED names Chidambaram in Aircel-Maxis chargesheet

Former union minister P Chidambaram leaves the Patiala High Courts after a hearing in the INX media case in New Delhi on Oct 25, 2018. The Delhi High Court has extended interim protection to Chidambaram in the case till Nov. 29. Credit: PTI photo

Former union minister P Chidambaram on Thursday faced more trouble as the Enforcement Directorate named him in a supplementary charge sheet in the Aircel-Maxis case. He and eight others are accused of laundering Rs 1.16 crore, which was “received as bribe” for clearing foreign investment in the telecom firm.

In the first chargesheet filed on June 13, Chidambaram’s son Karti, two firms linked to him — Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCL) and Chess Management Services Pvt Ltd (CMSHL) — and two others were named in connection with the laundering of the suspected bribe money received for giving illegal approval for the investment.

The ED case, which is based on a CBI FIR, pertains to a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval granted in 2006 by Chidambaram when he was finance minister in the UPA government. It claimed that the FIPB approval for the investment in the Aircel-Maxis deal, which the ED claimed ran into Rs 3,560 crore, was granted in March 2006 by Chidambaram even though he was competent to accord approval on project proposals only up to Rs 600 crore.

Those named in the latest charge sheet included chartered accountant S Bhaskararaman, Malaysian citizen Augustus Ralph Marshall, former Aircel CEO V Srinivasan and Malaysia-based companies Aircel Televentures, Astro All Asia Networks, Maxis Mobole Sdn Bhd and Bumi Armada Berhad.

Chidamabaram, who was questioned by the ED several times, had earlier denied any wrongdoing.

In the charge sheet filed before the special court on Thursday, the ED claimed that the proposal of Mauritius-based Global Communication and Services Holdings Ltd to invest $800 million (around Rs 3,560 crore) “should have been referred to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs but it was not referred and was approved by P Chidambaram under a conspiracy”.

“The material evidence reveals routing of proceeds of crime in the guise of bonafide business deals by the beneficiaries of illegal FIPB approval in the companies of Karti. ED investigation has revealed the financial linkage of Karti and Chidambaram with these companies,” the ED claimed.

The CBI also had on July 19 filed a charge sheet in the Aircel-Maxis deal case against Chidambaram and Karti in the case. Investigators have claimed that Rs 26 lakh was paid to Chennai-based ASCL, a firm with links to Karti, by Aircel when the finance ministry cleared the foreign investment. ASCL is alleged to have raised invoice on March 29, 2006 and Aircel made the payment three days later. CMSHL, in which Karti is said director, also received Rs 87 lakh in several instalments.