The CBI on Thursday named former Finance Minister P Chidambaram as an accused in its chargesheet in the Aircel-Maxis case. Along with Chidambaram, his son Karti, as well as 16 others were also named as accused. Six of those named are companies. Charges have been framed under the Prevention of Corruption Act and a criminal conspiracy has also been alleged between all the accused under Section 120B of the IPC. The agency filed its supplementary charge sheet before special CBI judge O P Saini who fixed it for consideration on July 31.
The matter stems from 2006 deal that saw Malaysian firm Maxis Communications buying a majority stake in Indian telecom company Aircel. Here's all you need to know:
In March 2006, Malaysian firm Maxis Communications acquired a 74% stake in Aircel in an almost Rs 3500 crore deal. Five years later, in May 2011, C Sivasankaran, the founder of Aircel, filed a complaint with the CBI alleging that former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran had arm-twisted him into making the sale. In November 2011, the CBI filed a FIR against Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanidhi Maran accusing them of quid pro quo for allegedly facilitating the deal for Maxis. Maxis had allegedly also been granted a license to operate within six months of the takeover of Aircel.
From then onwards the CBI continued to probe the case against the Marans till February 2017 when all charges against them were dropped by a special CBI court which did not find them guilty of the charges made out in the chargesheet. In December 2014, however, even as the case against the Marans continued, the CBI examined former Finance Minister P Chidambaram's role in the deal.
The deal to acquire Aircel entailed a foreign investment, which, as per the extant norms required clearance from the (now defunct) Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). The FIPB at that time reported to the Union Finance Minister, i.e. P Chidambaram. However, the Finance Minister at that time was only competent to give sanction up to Rs 600 crore. Anything in excess of that figure would have to be referred to the Cabinet Committee On Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by the Prime Minister.
At that time, Chidambaram had said that the Aircel-Maxis deal file had been put up before him by FIPB officials and he had approved it "in the normal course".
“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”, Chidambaram had said in a statement.
The ED (which had named Karti Chidambaram as an accused in its chargesheet) has since said that its probe has revealed that the case of the said foreign direct investment was “wrongly projected as an investment of ₹180 crore so that it need not be sent to the CCEA to avoid a detailed scrutiny”.
As per documents released by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Dr Subramanian Swamy, a company called Advantage Strategic Consulting which was controlled by Karti Chidambaram had allegedly acquired a 5% stake in Aircel and P Chidambaram had delayed FIPB clearance for the deal till the Advantage-Aircel transaction was completed.
Karti Chidambaram was raided on a number of occasions by both CBI and ED, which had filed cases against him in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
As per the chargesheet, 'Advantage Strategic Consulting got Rs 26 lakh from Aircel. FIPB clearance was given on March 13, 2006. When the FIPB clearance was given, an invoice was raised by Advantage on April 1, 2006. Payment was made through cheque. Advantage said they had provided consultancy services by doing a market survey. ELCM software was provided, but Advantage couldn’t furnish proof of this software when asked for by the CBI. Advantage couldn’t show any actual proof of business done with Aircel.
For the FIPB approval, the power of the Finance Minister was to sanction up to Rs 600 crore. On the file, Rs. 180 crore was shown as investment without showing the premium. The investment, in reality, was Rs 3200 crore along with premium. This wasn’t reflected in the file and the then Finance minister gave the approval.'
CBI says the inference cannot be drawn that then Finance Minister Chidambaram was not aware of the real value of the shares.
On the two money trails established by the CBI: Two illegal payments of Rs 26 lakh and Rs 87 lakh were given to Karti Chidambaram's companies.
Section 120B of the IPC - Criminal Conspiracy
Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act - Public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act.
Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act - Punishment of abetment of offences defined in Section 7 (above)
Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act - Any public servant who commits criminal misconduct shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than one year but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine
...read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act - Criminal misconduct by a public servant
Kapil Sibal, former UPA HRD minister and senior advocate: CBI chargesheet will meet same fate as other chargesheets of CBI. Remember when they tried to prosecute the Marans and in the 2G case? They don't have any evidence. They're trying to slander name
Anand Sharma, former UPA Commerce minister: The government is using central agencies for their own purposes. Real corrupt are free. P Chidambaram has every right to protect himself. Opposition will continue to do its job. They will not silence us with these things.
Dr Subramanian Swamy: "Finally we have a chargesheet against a man who claimed that nobody can touch him, and his son, and they're both going to jail very soon."
(On what will happen next) "Mr Chidambaram will have to come before the CBI court. He may be arrested or he may be arrested and given bail. It all depends on whether the CBI thinks he can tamper with evidence. He may spend some time in jail, it depends on the court. But he will have to appear. Once the chargesheet is presented, the court sets a date."