The government has given the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) the go-head to prosecute the former Finance minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram, in the Aircel-Maxis case.
The Solicitor General,Mr. Tushar Mehta, told the Patiala House court in New Delhi that the CBI had received the Centre’s sanction to prosecute Mr. Chidambaram. Mr. Mehta also informed the court that of the 18 accused in the case, the agency was still awaiting authorization to prosecute five other former government officials.
In July, this year, the CBI, in its supplementary charge-sheet, named Mr. Chidambaram and his son, Mr. Karti Chidambaram, as accused in the Aircel-Maxis case.
The CBI charged the senior Congress leader with having received kickbacks in the Aircel-Maxis deal, in return for ensuring Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance of the ₹3,500 crore deal.
When contacted, Mr. Chidambaram declined to comment.
Persons familiar with the development said Mr. Tushar Mehta in his submissions to the Patiala House court stated that both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have sought Mr. Chidambaram’s custodial interrogation, 'in the wake of ED gathering evidence against Karti and P. Chidambaram for having closed several foreign bank accounts.'
The prosecution has also alleged that both investigative agencies have gathered fresh evidence, and that Mr. Chidambaram had not been cooperating with the investigation.
In October, the ED filed a supplementary charge-sheet against Mr. Chidambaram—and nine others, including Mr. Karti Chidambaram— as an accused in the Aircel-Maxis case, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for allegedly conspiring with and giving clearance to foreign investors.
The ED charged the former minister with exceeding the extent of FIPB clearance that he was entitled to provide to the foreign investor, Global Communication and Services Holdings Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Maxis Berhad, Malaysia.
'As per rules and the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy of the government, in 2006, P. Chidambaram, the then finance minister, was empowered to give approval to proposals involving foreign investments of up to ₹600 crore only. The foreign investment proposal of Global Communication and Services Holdings Ltd, Mauritius, was of $800 million, ₹3,560 crore approximately,' the ED said in its charge-sheet.
The ED has also claimed that Aircel Televentures Ltd paid ₹26 lakh to Karti Chidambaram-controlled Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt. Ltd (ASCPL) within a few days of the FIPB approval. The agency added that the foreign direct investment was 'wrongly projected as an investment of ₹180 crore' so that it could escape scrutiny by the cabinet committee on economic affairs.