"Investigation revealed that Dayanidhi Maran, the then Telecom Minister in abuse of official position constricted the business environment of Aircel Televentures Limited on frivolous ground with an intent to force its exit from telecom business and its sale to Maxis Communication, Malaysia," CBI has alleged in its charge sheet filed today.
It is alleged that various proposals, which were crucial to functioning of Aircel including licenses for various circles and change in equity--were kept pending by Maran on frivolous grounds for nearly eight months despite clearances from the various department.
"Sivasankaran wanted to sell the Aircel Cellular Limited to Aircel Digilink India Ltd, owned by Hutchison Essar Limited, but allegedly the minister kept the matter pending for eight month in respect of change in equity share pattern of Aircel Limited to Aircel Digilink India Limited despite unanimous recommendation from the officials of Department of Telecom," the CBI claimed.
Later, Aircel had to withdraw the application after eight months citing reasons that the approval for change in equity was not received from the DoT, it alleged.
"This is why charge of abuse of official position has been made in the charge sheet against the Minister. However, since the charges of criminal conspiracy are also there, all the accused will be judged by same yardstick," said an official.
The agency has charged Maran, his brother Kalanithi, T Ananda Krishnan, promoter of Maxis based in Malaysia, Augustus Ralph Marshall who headed Maxis's UK based subsidiary Astro All Asia Network and companies Sun Direct TV Pvt Limited, Astro All Asia Network, Maxis Communications and South Asia Entertainment, Mauritius.
In November 2005, Sivasankaran was told by the Minister to sell the company to Maxis through meetings and phone calls.
"After the change in ownership, the requests/approvals pending since long before the Department of Telecom were acceded to and undue favour was given to these companies," CBI alleged in the charge sheet.
The sources alleged that bribe of Rs 549 crore in return of the favours was paid by Maxis through its subsidiary Astro All Asia Network Pvt Limited based in the United Kingdom in the garb of investment (total investment of Rs 629 crore) in Sun Direct Pvt Limited, owned by Maran's brother Kalanithi.
The investment was done through purchase of shares of Sun Direct Pvt Limited by a Mauritius-based subsidiary of Astro Asia, South Asia Entertainment Holdings Limited at a premium of Rs 69.57, CBI sources said giving details of charges.
They said besides Astro All Asia Network another illegal gratification of Rs 193 crore was paid to South Asia FM Limited, owned by Marans, in Chennai through its Mauritius-based subsidiaries South Asia Multimedia Technologies and South Asia Software Technologies Limited.
The alleged bribe was routed through a subsidiary of Maxis based in Mauritius South Adia Entertainment Holdings Limited.
CBI alleged that the charge sheet has focussed only on the money trail of illegal gratification and the probe is on how the money was brought in for the investment in Aircel.
"The aspect of the irregularity in grant of FIPB approval to M/s Global Communication Services Holdings Limited and the role of Indian Partner M/s Sindya Securities and Investment Pvt Limited, owned by Sunita Reddy of Apollo Group, in holding 26 per cent equity of Aircel is being further investigated," CBI officials said here today.
CBI claimed that although the Malaysia had not responded to Letters Rogatory sent by it, the agency was able to piece together money trail from the responses of judicial requests sent to Mauritius, the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man.