Ananda Krishnan and Ralph Marshall charged in India

Astro All Asia Networks plc executive deputy chairman Ralph Marshall at the press briefing following the companys AGM & EGM in Kuala Lumpur on July 26

BILLIONAIRE tycoon T Ananda Krishnan and his right hand man Ralph Marshall (pic) are among several people who have been charged in the ongoing Aircel-Maxis scandal in India.

According to The Economic Times that’s based out of India, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed charges on more than a dozen people, which also include several high profile personalities.

Other than the two personalities in Malaysia, India’s CBI is also charging former India finance minister P. Chidambaram, his son Karti Chidambaram and five other government officials, who include the then secretary, joint secretary, under secretary and joint director of economic affairs.

The charge sheet claims that two illegal payments of Rs 26 lakhs and Rs 87 lakhs were paid to Karti’s companies – Chess Management and Advantage Strategic (which is allegedly indirectly owned by him) during the Aircel-Maxis deal.

According to the report, the CBI also claims that both the aforesaid payments were made “contemporaneously” to Karti’s firm when his father had cleared the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) when he was finance minister then.

The agency has also said in its charge sheet that two sets of money trails were discovered pertaining the FIPB clearance.

The scandal erupted following allegations of power abuse in March 2006 by the Finance Ministry in India, of which there are allegations of power abuse to give Maxis Communications the FIPB clearance, which was used to bring in 3,200 crore rupees, far in excess of the ceiling of 600 crore rupees it was authorised to clear on its own.

Other than Ananda, Ralph, P. Chidam-baram and Karti, the other people who have been charged included Ashok Kumar Jha, former Union secretary economic affairs; Ashok Chawla, then additional secretary; two serving IAS officers – Kumar Sanjay Krishna, joint secretary and Deepak Kumar Singh, director; Ram Sharan, under secretary; S. Bhaskaraman, A. Palaniappam, V. Srinivasan and some companies.

They are Chess Management, Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Ltd and the other companies in Malaysia that are linked to Ananda: Astro All Asia Networks; Maxis Mobile Malaysia; Bumi Armada Bhd (Malaysia) and Bumi Armada Navigations (Malaysia).

In response to these charges, P. Chidambaram says on Twitter that the allegations against him are preposterous, noting that he and his officers had a “sterling reputation”.

He also claims the agency has been pressured to file the charge sheet against him.

“The case is now before the court and it will be contested vigorously. I shall make no more public comment,” P. Chidambaram wrote on his Twitter handle.

The Times of India quoted the CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal as saying that the former finance minister has been charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

If convicted of the offence, the maximum jail sentence would be seven years.

According to the CBI, Maxis had then sought approval to buy 18 crore rupee shares of Aircel in 2008 at 10 rupees each and amounting to 180 crore rupees.

The CBI alleged that the real value of the deal, after including the premium, stood at 3,200 crore rupees and that this was seen in the Maxis proposal.

It is alleged that the FIPB’s motive by declaring Rs 180 crore was to give an approval to Maxis, which already owned 74% of Aircel shares.

Otherwise, the case would have to be referred to India’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

According the report, India’s CBI further alleged that these rules were not adhered to in return for kickbacks which benefited Chidambaram’s son Karti.

“The total amount of 3,200 crore rupees, including the premiums, was always reflected in the Maxis proposal but only the face value of the shares – 180 crore rupees – was kept on the file to avoid sending it to the CCEA,” the CBI was quoted as saying.

“Every aspect of Maxis’ investment including the face value amount and premium amount was discussed by senior officials several times.

“P. Chidambaram himself was involved in the whole process and gave oral instructions on a few occasions,” the CBI added.

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