Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Aircel-Maxis Scam : All knew, Chidambaram didn’t

All knew, Chidambaram didn’t

J Gopikrishnan / Pioneer - OpED/ Feb 27, 2017

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram was economical with the truth when he told the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that he was not aware that Malaysian company Maxis’ investment in Aircel was above Rs 600 crore, when he approved the Foreign Investment Promotion Board’s (FIPB) recommendation on March 7, 2006. Chidambaram stated to this to the CBI when he was questioned on December 6, 2014. Certain senior Finance Ministry officials made similar statements to the probe agency.
This writer recently paid a visit to the Parliament library to check newspaper archives in a bid to understand what had been reported in the media during those days about Maxis’ takeover of Aircel. Every major newspaper in India had, on December 31, 2005, reported in a big way that Maxis was going to invest one billion dollars in Aircel. Some newspapers reported the exact value at $I.08 billion in headlines; some even converted the value in rupees (those days, a dollar was equivalent to Rs 45), saying that the foreign investment was Rs 4,700 crore. Business dailies splashed it on the front page and other newspapers reported prominently in their business section. They appeared on the same day after Maxis and Aircel conducted a joint Press conference in Mumbai on December 30, 2005, about the billion-dollar acquisition plan.
The photo montage of the main newspapers reports on December 31, 2005 is placed along with this article. Apart from Indian and Malaysian newspapers, international newspapers such as the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal reported this deal in detail. An Internet search shows that television channels too widely reported the deal.
In January and February 2006 too, most newspapers were reporting regularly on the acquisition details and on the file movements at the FIPB. What was the basic illegality in the Aircel-Maxis scam? Those days, the FIPB could approve foreign investments up to Rs 600 crore. As per Rule (Finance Ministry Order dated February 18, 2003), the Finance Minister had to send the proposals above Rs 600 crore to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). Then Finance Minister was the Chairman of CCEA too. The subsequent Maxis investment of Rs 675 crore in Maran family-run Sun TV group details had been sent by Chidambaram to the CCEA.
Why did Chidambaram did not send the proposal of Maxis’ investment in Aircel to the CCEA? Those days, Saudi Telecom had more than 25 per cent shares in Maxis. Saudi Telecom also has major shareholding in Pakistan Tele Communication Limited (PTCL) and our security agencies would have definitely objected Maxis’ entry in India, if the file reached the CCEA.
Newspapers had reported that Maxis was going to invest Rs 4,700 crore on December 31, 2005. But Maxis, in its application to the FIPB on January 25, 2006, stated only $800 million (Rs 3,600 crore) of investment in Aircel. Now, the  Comptroller and Auditor-General’s P&T Audit wing found that the actual money which had come to India was Rs 4,769 crore from Maxis. Where did the balance of Rs 1,200 crore disappear?
What is the CBI doing with these open-and-shut findings? The CBI was trying limit the case to former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, based on a doubtful complaint by Aircel promoter C Sivasankaran, who alleged that Maran arm-twisted him into selling Aircel to Maxis. The December 31, 2005, news reports in the media exposes that both Sivasankaran and the Maxis owners conducted Press conferences in Mumbai to announce the billion-dollar acquisition deal. This shows that everyone in the Finance and the Telecom Ministries was aware of the deal’s amount. The question then is: Why had the CBI believed in Sivasankaran’s theory of arm-twisting in April 2011. The Congress was enjoying the diminishing profile of alliance partner DMK, when A Raja and Kanimozhi were allegedly involved  in the 2G scam.
But the Aircel-Maxis scam took a different turn, when BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, in April 2012, came out with money trail of Rs 26 lakh to companies linked to Chidambaram’s son Karti, and blatant FIPB violations. Apart from the violation of not sending the file to CCEA, Maxis also lied to the Indian authorities. Those days, a maximum of 74 per cent was the limit of foreign investment in telecom companies. But after the illegal FIPB clearance, Maxis declared to the Malaysian Stock Exchange that it had acquired 99.3 per cent shares in Aircel by striking an alliance with a Chennai-based hospital group of companies. This shows that Sivasankaran was perhaps illegally offloading his entire shares to Maxis. It’s astonishing that the country’s premier probe agency believed his story of arm-twisting.
Another big fraud was the stark variation in the valuation of shares. 74 per cent of Aircel was valued at around Rs 3,600 crore and the rest 26 per cent was valued at a pittance of around Rs 30 crore! The CAG’s finding in 2015 of the actual money flow of Maxis of Rs 4,769 crore shows that around Rs 1,200 crore came to India was nothing but black money or kickbacks as part of the deal.
 In a nutshell, all, including Chidambaram, Maran, Sivasankaran and Maxis owner T Ananda Krishnan, were allegedly part and parcel of a dubious deal to mislead Government of India, violating provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.   
After Chidambaram and son Karti’s names cropped up, the CBI went into silent mode, leading to Maran’s discharge from ‘arm-twisting’ charges, by the 2G court. While declaring Chidambaram’s ‘illegalities’ in the deal in the chargesheet in August 2014, the CBI never provided proof to the court.  The joint raid of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax department unearthed two-lakh-dollar money flow from Maxis’ three subsidiary companies to Karti’s company, Chess Management Services Private Limited. The raid also exposed 21 secret foreign bank accounts of Karti Chidambaram and companies linked to him, and their huge assets, hotels, vineyards and farm houses in 14 countries. The question is: What has prevented our agencies to act on these stunning details of black money allegedly stashed by Chidambaram’s family? 
The Central Bureau of Investigation is now acting as a mute spectator in Subramanian Swamy’s case in the Supreme Court. The apex court’s main question to Swamy is: Was Chidambaram aware that the deal was above secret 600 crore when he illegally approved it in March 2006? Newspaper reports detailed it on December 31, 2005, and subsequent reports in January and February 2006 wrote of it. The entire world was aware of this billion-dollar deal. It cannot be believed that Chidambaram was unaware of of the fact that the amount exceeded the limit for approval at his end.  

(The writer is Special Correspondent, The Pioneer)

Aircel- Maxis Scam - CBI - Caged parrot refuses to speak

Caged parrot refuses to speak

J Gopikrishnan / Pioneer - OpED/ Feb 14, 2017

The Aircel-Maxis scam was the invention of the Central Bureau of Investigation in mid-April 2011, when the 2G scam case against former Minister for Telecommunications A Raja was rocking the country. Certain media houses began flashing the name of former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, who also fell into the CBI’s net. Details of complaints filed by Aircel founder C Sivasankaran, who accused Maran for “arm-twisting” him to sell his company to Malaysian conglomerate Maxis Group, also came in. Those days, on a daily basis, the Supreme Court’s 2G Bench was hearing the case, and the Congress-led UPA Government was at the receiving end.
On July 7, 2011, CBI counsel KK Venugopal declared in the apex court that the agency found “there was an element of coercion” from Maran’s side in the selling of Aircel to Maxis. And, Maran was forced to give his resignation from the Union Cabinet. In September 2011, the CBI filed a detailed FIR in the 2G court. The DMK was then in the dock.
But the tables turned against the Congress in the Aircel-Maxis scam, when in April 26, 2012, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy exposed the role of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, and Rs 26 lakh money trails to his son Karti’s companies. The Aircel-Maxis scam started from the dubious FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) approvals granted by Chidambaram in early 2006.
The revelations sent the CBI’s case against Maran into a deep freezer. At one point, CBI officers even wrote, “No case”, against Maran. The CBI officers’ opinion was overruled by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi in mid-2014. After this, the CBI filed a chargesheet against Maran and his brother heading the family firm, Sun TV Group, and Maxis owners in August 2014.
During this period, a curious deal  happened. The Maran family sold its Spice Jet airlines to its earlier owner Ajay Singh. This deal was in violation of the Securities and Exchange Board of India guidelines, as there were no open offers. The dispute has reached the Delhi High Court. In the chargesheet against Maran, the CBI detailed the violations of Chidambaram in granting the FIPB approval to Maxis. The CBI declared it would soon file a supplementary chargesheet. It interrogated Chidambaram in December 2014. The main illegalities in the FIPB approval in Aircel-Maxis scam are:
1. Those days, the FIPB had the power to approve Rs 600 crore worth foreign investment. Above this limit, the proposal filed had to go to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for approval. Maxis, in its application to the FIPB, said its investment was $800 million (Rs 3,600 crore).
Chidambaram cleared the FIPB approval and did not send the proposal to the CCEA. This was perhaps the lone case not sent to CCEA by Chidambaram in his career as Finance Minister. He sent the Rs 675-crore FIPB-cleared file of Maxis Group’s investment in Maran family’s Sun TV Group to the CCEA in January 2007.
2. Maxis, in its application to the FIPB said it was acquiring 73.99 per cent shares of Aircel. Those days, the maximum foreign investment permitted in telecom sector was 74 per cent. But Maxis declared to the Malaysian Stock Exchange that it had acquired 99.93 per cent in Aircel. So, Maxis was actually cheating the Indian Government.
3. The 74 per cent of the Aircel shares were taken over for Rs 3,600 crore. Shockingly, the rest 26 per cent was sold at just Rs 28 crore!
4. Now, the Comptroller and Auditor-General found that, though illegal FIPB approval was for Rs 3,600 crore, but the actual money flow from Malaysia was more than Rs 4,900 crore! Where has this extra Rs 1,300 crore gone?
But, after declaring Chidambaram’s illegalities in the chargesheet against the Maran brothers in August 2014, nothing happened from the CBI side, and the agency never came back to the 2G court, leading to the Maran brothers’ discharge from the case this February. The Maran brothers were always contradicting the curious arm-twisting theory of the CBI, citing Chidambaram’s FIPB approval.
The 2G court judge OP Saini’s very lengthy discharge order relies on the CBI’s lack of evidences on the arm-twisting theory targeting the Marans. It’s another question as to why the judge went for the framing of charges procedure, although the CBI had not provided the promised evidence against Chidambaram. He should have asked the CBI to clarify this matter.
The CBI’s silence in alerting the judge about this aspect is also intriguing. There is another question: Why did the judge speed up the discharge order, when, based on advocate Prashant Bhushan’s petition, the Supreme Court had begun acting against the Maxis owners, when they were in the process of selling Aircel to Reliance Communications and spectrum-sharing arrangements with Airtel?
The CBI is the villain in these developments. All the corrupt forces in the country muzzled have CBI. Ashok Tiwari, then Joint Director of the CBI, who summoned Chidambaram in December 2014, was unceremoniously removed from the agency. CBI Director Anil Sinha prevented him from questioning Chidambaram, leaving the interrogation to junior officers.
Within days, Tiwari was shunted out to the redundant ‘Rajiv Gandhi assassination conspiracy’ case studying division; subsequently he was thrown out from the CBI and despatched to his parent cadre. Now, Tiwari is the Managing Director of Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation. Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) Investigating Officer Rajeshwar Singh too was shunted out from the organisation for probing money trails to Karti Chidambaram’s firms. The Ministry of Finance even misled the court, that the probe in the Aircel-Maxis case was over and that there wasn’t any need of the services of Rajeshwar Singh, in July 2014!
After Swamy’s petition, the Supreme Court intervened to post him permanently in the ED. After raids, the ED found two lakh dollar money trails from three Maxis Group companies to Karti’s company, Chess Management Services Pvt Ltd. Karti has not yet appeared before the ED, even after he was issued three summon notices. Why was he not arrested for repeatedly evading summons? .
Now, the Supreme Court has asked petitioner Swamy to provide certain documents. What the court wants to know is, whether Chidambaram was aware that Rs 600 crore was the FIPB’s limit. The Ministry of Finance’s order dated February 18, 2003, clearly stated Rs 600 crore was the limit and that Minister had to sent the FIPB files above this limit to the CCEA.
With such evidence, why is the CBI not acting on the sham FIPB approval in the Aircel-Maxis scam. Why is it waiting for the court’s direction, which is sitting on Swamy’s petition since May 2012.

(The writer is Special Correspondent, The Pioneer) 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Aircel - Maxis scam : ED - IT raids dig up empire of PC's son in 14 countries

J Gopikrishnan / New Delhi / Feb 29, 2016

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti has built a huge empire for himself in different parts of the world by making investment in real estates and engaging in other business activities in London, Dubai, South Africa, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, British Virgin Island, France, USA, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. This came to light from the documents recovered during the recent joint raids of the Enforcement Directorate and Investigation Wing of Income Tax in the Aircel-Maxis scam.
The investigation team got the details of Karti’s wealth following raids on his company, Advantage Strategic Consulting, which is involved in the Aircel-Maxis deal for financial transactions with telecom beneficiaries. 
Most of the transaction and purchases of properties and acquisition by Karti was executed through Advantage’s Singapore-based subsidiary Advantage Strategic Consulting Singapore Pte Ltd. According to the investigators, the ED and I-T (Investigation Wing) are expected to contact their international counterparts to get more details from the 14 countries as per the United Nation’s Convention on prevention of money laundering.
The 2G Court had already issued Letter Rogatory to Singapore for getting transaction details of the Karti-controlled company in Singapore.
The probe details coming out of the recent raids expose massive wealth acquired by Karti during 2006 to 2014 when his father was Finance Minister and Home Minister at the Centre. Karti’s Singapore firm acquired 88 acres in September 2011 at Surridge Farm in Somerset in the UK for one million Pounds. The deal comprises four land titles, which were seized by joint probe team of ED and I-T. Karti’s company in Singapore also has investments in Artevea Digital Limited in Cambridge and has transactions with another London-based company Oppenheimer Investments (UK) Limited.
According to the details unearthed by investigators, Karti’s Singapore-based firm had acquired majority shares of a big resort in Sri Lanka, known as Lanka Fortune Residencies. This company owns the prestigious resorts ‘The Waterfront’, ‘Weligama Bay Resort’ and Emerald Bay Hotel. During the raid, the tax sleuths unearthed the acquisition agreement papers between Karti’s Singapore company and share holders of the Sri Lankan firm. Document of money trail of investments made in a Sri Lanka with a Lanka-based financial firm, Union Development & Investment Company Private Limited, were also seized in the December raids.
The probe details how Karti’s Singapore firm routed money via Dubai to acquire three farms and vineyards in South Africa, identified as Rowey Farm in Grabouw, Cape Orchards and Vineyards Private Limited, and Zandvliet Enterprises, a wine and stud farm in Ashton. The Karti-controlled Singapore firm also had money transactions with Nicholls Steyn and Associates in South Africa.
The Dubai-based Desert Dunes Properties Ltd has also investment in Karti’s Singapore-based company Advantage. The sleuths have unearthed a money trail of 1.7 million Singapore Dollars between these firms. Another Dubai-based company, Pearl Dubai FX LLC, also had financial transaction with the Advantage.
The Advantage’s Singapore subsidiary had entered into joint ventures with the Philippines-based companies to obtain a franchise team of International Premier Tennis League (Asia). The Philippine firms, which were engaged in joint ventures with the Karti-controlled company, are SM Arena Complex Corporation, Sports Entertainment Events Management Inc and two persons from Philippines - Juna Kevin and Haresh C Hiranand.  
The Advantage had also had financial transactions with another real estate company in Singapore known as Real Beyond Pte Ltd having three subsidiaries in Malaysia. The investigation has unearthed that these transactions led to 16 land purchases in Thailand.
The Advantage’s Singapore unit has set up a firm in British Virgin Island (BVI), namely Somerset Surridge Ltd. The Advantage also invested 400,000 Singapore dollars in another BVI firm known as Full Innovations Ltd. It also has financial dealing with Geben Trading Limited in BVI and offices in Switzerland. This firm’s major transactions were through the famous Swiss Bank, namely UBS. The investigators got proofs of transactions in Dollars and Euro. The Advantage also has transaction of five million Singapore dollars with another firm in Singapore, namely Unison Global Investment Ltd.
The Karti-controlled company in Singapore has also entered into joint ventures with Gravitas Investments, Match Point International Tennis Events to buy a franchise Tennis team called ‘Manila Mavericks’.
The investigators unearthed that this deal was worth of 12 million US dollars and the money was paid in 10 installments. 
The Advantage had also acquired a residential flat in Malaysia worth 1.9 million Malaysian Ringgits from a firm called Peninsular Smart. The probe team also found that the Advantage holds franchisees of CafĂ©’ Coffee Day in some areas of Malaysia. The investigators have found several transactions to Karti’s Singapore firm with Malaysian companies. Malaysia is the head quarters of telecom giant Maxis which acquired Aircel in 2006. The raids have seized some payment details amounting to more than Rs.30 crore in foreign currencies.   
The Advantage in Singapore also opened a subsidiary firm in Barcelona in Spain known as Advantage Estrategia Esportiva SLU in August 2012. This is a sports academy having four acres with seven tennis courts. Karti-linked Singapore firm has also one million US dollar investments in a company in France known as Pampelonn Organisation. The Advantage also has transactions with a Greek firm known as Pisani John Sakellarios in Athens. 
Karti’s Singapore company has also transferred 50,000 dollars to a Bank of America account in the name of “Chennai Reserve - Business Advantage Checking” and the beneficiary of this transaction was one company called Kitchen Inc, a Delaware Corporation company in New York engaged in issuance of Convertible Promissory Notes.
The Chennai-based Advantage also has transactions with Aircel Televenutres, DCB Client, Diageo Scotland Limited, Katra Group, Sri Lanka Export Development Board, Unifi Wealth Management Ltd, VST Tillers Tractors, Carlton Trading Company, Claris Life Sciences’, ITC Centre, Best Land Realty Limited, Essar Steel Limited, Gokul Builders and Estates, S Kumar, INX Media, Reflections, Thiagarajar Mills Private Limited, Sak Soft, EL Forge Limited.  

All these massive investments, transactions, acquisition of companies and properties abroad were executed by the Advantage after the Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006. It is learned that ED and IT has dispatched all these information to Supreme Court, which is monitoring the probe on Aircel-Maxis scam in a sealed cover and also shared with their counterparts in CBI. Both CBI and the ED had said in their chargesheets that FIPB clearance given by then Finance Minister Chidambaram to Maxis to acquire Aircel was totally illegal.

Six telecom companies hushed up over Rs. 45000 cr : CAG

J Gopikrishnan / New Delhi / March 8, 2016

In what could be a mega scandal, the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) has unearthed under-invoicing of revenue to the tune of over Rs45,000 crore by six telecom companies from 2006 to 2010. The CAG submitted a related report to the President’s Office and the Ministry of Finance in mid-February. The report, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament during the Budget Session, says that due to this massive under-invoicing, the exchequer lost more than Rs12,000 crore in taxes, that does not include penalty for tax evasion.
Given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, the CAG audited the revenue and expenditure receipts of Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications, Idea, Tata and Aircel.
The auditors decided to undertake this exercise after they came across several cases of discrepancies in revenue calculations of the telecom companies in 2010 when the CAG was preparing the 2G scam report.  Alerted by the auditors, then CAG Vinod Rai ordered auditing of the revenue and expenditure of the six telecom companies.
After they challenged the decision in court, in 2011 Delhi HC asked the six telecom companies to share their accounts with the CAG and passed an order ratifying the CAG’s decision in January 2014. The SC in April 17, 2014, upheld the Delhi HC’s judgment on CAG’s power to audit any entity related to the revenue and expenditure of the Government.
During the audit, which officially started during August 2014, the CAG had called for the records and inspected the offices of all telecom companies.
“We were happy to note that there were several whistleblowers forthcoming to reveal the methods of under-invoicing by the telecom companies. Some companies were maintaining actual and manipulated accounting books and these whistleblowers helped us track down the original revenue earned,” said a senior auditor of the team engaged in the audit of the telecom companies.   
According to the auditors, each of the six firms under-invoiced the revenue between Rs6,000 crore and Rs18,000 crore.  
“What we noted is the difference in auditing in Government and private sectors. In the Government sector, not many people will come forward to help us, whereas in the private sector several people are forthcoming to expose the frauds to CAG,” he added. 
During the 2G scam audit, the CAG found discrepancies in the customer base of the telecom companies and revenue and tax figures. The telecom companies fielded a battery of top lawyers to oppose the CAG in the High Court and the Supreme Court.
The estimated tax evasion figure of over Rs12,000 crore is based on the tax structure and telecom levy norms between 2006 and 2010. The loss figure does not include the penalty for under-invoicing of revenue.

It is expected that if the Government start acting on the CAG report, the telecom companies might have to pay up to  Rs30,000 crore to the exchequer by way of tax and penalty. 
PS : CAG report was tabled in Parliament on March 11, 2016. Recommending the Government to check the revenues of telecom companies from 1999, the CAG in its report exposed that from 2006 to 2010, six major operators had under- invoiced Rs. 46045.75 crore resulting a tax loss of Rs.12488.93 crore to the exchequer. The apex auditor caught Airtel, Tata, Reliance Communications, Idea, Vodafone and Aircel for hushing up their revenues to evade mandatory remitting of portion of the revenue to the Government, which was collected from people.

The detailed audit report has devoted one chapter for each telecom company’s revenue during the four years and tax evasion. Among the total tax evasion of more than Rs.12488 crore, Reliance Communications evaded Rs.3728.54 crore and Tata evaded Rs.3215.39 crore. CAG found Airtel evaded Rs. 2651.89 crore, followed by Vodafone (Rs1665.39crore), Idea (Rs.964.89 crore) and Aircel (Rs.262.83crore).

Monday, August 3, 2015

Aircel-Maxis spectre back to haunt Chidambaram

Aircel-Maxis spectre back to haunt Chidambaram
CBI seeks details of deal’s audit from CAG

J Gopikrishnan
August 3, 2015 ‘The Pioneer’

In a move that could spell trouble for former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the CBI has sought from the CAG details of its audit report in the Aircel-Maxis deal exposing “undisclosed” and “illegal”  fund flow of  Rs1,255 crore to Aircel from Malaysian company Maxis.
While the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) had given approval for only `3,514 crore of investment by Maxis in Aircel, the CAG’s P&T Audit wing with the help of its counterpart auditors from Malaysia, has discovered that Aircel got `4,769 crore from Maxis in clear violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). 
“During the course of investigation of the above-referred case (Aircel-Maxis), it transpired that P&T Audit Office had conducted audit of Department of Telecommu-nications with reference to the Aircel-Maxis deal and had raised certain audit paras/objections. In this context, the following documents/information are required,” said CBI in a “Most Urgent” communication to CAG in the first week of July.
The CBI sought details of the audit report, audit paras/objections raised and also replies from Finance Ministry and Department of Telecom. In its final finding in January, the CAG’s P&T Audit wing observed that the FIPB approval to Aircel-Maxis was a “mockery” of FDI norms. It also pointed out that communications from the Finance Ministry in 2006 were “silent” on the value of the FDI flow in the above deal. 
It also blamed Finance Ministry and DoT for allowing Maxis to acquire 99.3 per cent of shares in Aircel in “secret ways.” During that period in 2006, foreign companies were allowed to invest only 74 per cent in telecom companies.  Interestingly to the CAG’s query in this regard, the Ministry of Finance in September 2013 said they had relied on the statement given by the Company Secretary of Aircel. 
Reiterating the CBI’s earlier findings, the auditors also said that as FIPB Chairman Chidambaram had no authority to approve any deal above `600 crore.
As per the rule, any investment above Rs 600 core has to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). Despite this, the FIPB meeting chaired by Chidambaram approved the Rs 3,500 crore worth Aircel-Maxis deal in March 2006.
The CAG auditors found that this was the only case in which Chidambaram gave FIPB approval, while he referred all other similar cases to the CCEA. Under Chidambaram, the Finance Ministry even sent Malaysian company Maxis’ subsidiary Astro’s Rs 660 crore investment proposal in Sun TV Group to the CCEA for approval. The CBI in its charge sheet against former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, termed this investment as a quid pro quo from the Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan.
“Audit further found that the letter of the Finance Ministry conveying the approval of FIPB in March 2006 did not indicate the approved quantum (amount) of the foreign investment i.e., upto which value the investment was to be made by Maxis group in Aircel Ltd,” said the CAG’s audit wing.
It was interesting to note that the Finance Ministry’s letter was dated March 20, 2006, and on the very next day Maxis invested Rs 3,514.35crore in Aircel. The CAG in its findings has given a detailed chart on how Rs 4,769 crore has flown from Maxis to Aircel.
The auditors also found that the Finance Ministry’s communications to Aircel were addressed to the c/o address of Amarchand Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co. Incidentally, in December 2014, Chidambaram represented one of the promoters of this firm in their legal battle of separation in Mumbai High Court.
In its charge sheet in August 29, 2014 against Maran brothers and Maxis owners, the CBI said that Chidambaram illegally gave FIPB clearance to Aircel-Maxis deal. The charge sheet also said that probe in the illegalities in grant of the FIPB clearances will be finished soon.  In October, the Supreme Court (SC) had ordered the CBI to submit a status report on the probe against Chidambaram upon BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s petition.
In the first week of December, the CBI had interrogated the former Finance Minister. However, the CBI Joint-Director Ashok Tewari, the officer who summoned Chidambaram was unceremoniously shunted out to his parent cadre in Himachal Pradesh within months.

Enforcement Directorate (ED) had already attached Rs.750 crore worth of properties of Sun TV in March. However, the ED has not yet launched prosecution proceedings against the people involved for PMLA and FEMA violations in the Aircel-Maxis scam. The SC is expected to hear the case next week.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Interview in Dagens Nyheter in March 2012 about 2G Scam

Below is the rough translation of my interview appeared in Swedish-Norwegian newspaper - Dagens Nyheter (DN). The interview was published on March 23, 2012. I was in Norway to present a paper on "India's Telecom Scandal' at annual media conference called SKUP. The interview was bascially focused on the role of Telenor, the Government controlled telecom company in 2G Scam :
 Telenor knew all 

The Indian journalist J. Gopikrishnan (41) revealed the corruption scandal that could cost Telenor 17 billion kroner. He refuses to accept that Telenor did not know the about the corruption allegations surrounding on its Indian partner. Telenor says it is innocent. I won’t agree, said the Indian journalist J. Gopikrishnan.

He was the first journalist who questioned how a number of companies without the knowledge of the telecom industry were awarded cellular licenses in India in 2008. Gopikrishnan has since been credited with having discovered what is known as India's biggest corruption scandal. Time magazine has named the issue as one of the worst examples of abuse of power ever.

Among the companies that were awarded mobile phone licenses was the real estate company Unitech. Norwegian Telenor entered into partnership with Unitech in 2009. Today, their jointly owned Uninor 41 million customers, but the company is now without a mobile license after a recent highest Indian court’s order.

In December 2008, J. Gopikrishnan and medium-sized newspaper The Pioneer revealed close ties between the former telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja and several real estate companies that were awarded mobile licenses.

The way the awards were handed out on, after a first come first served principle, is later cancelled by the Indian Supreme Court, and both the now former telecommunications minister and Telenor partner Sanjay Chandra is accused of corruption.

Telenor, the company came after the licenses were awarded. The company therefore believes it is an innocent casualty in the case, and that it had no reason to doubt the way the licenses were awarded.

Telenor’s claim that they did not know anything can’t be believable, says J. Gopikrishnan. I do not think you Norwegians are stupid. First, Telenor was very much aware of the value inherent in the Indian telecom market, and must have understood that the licenses were awarded for cheap, he says. Obviously there was huge corruption and known to all.

Second, Telenor is familiar with the political divisions in India and Asia. The company knows well that it is not possible to enter India when they have an  already established telecom operation in Pakistan, says Gopikrishnan, referring to the inflamed relations between Pakistan and India.
He believes that Telenor must have relied on political connections of its Indian partner and to was allowed to invest in India by paying a premium amount.  He believes, however, Telenor can work in the Indian market in the long run if they win auction.

Robbery in broad daylight

Telenor was proud on the wrong partner knowing all. Now, the best thing it can do now is to pay the market price when the licenses will be auctioned again. J. Gopikrishnan believes this corruption case in India is robbery in broad daylight. He tells about the deadlines that were changed in the last minute and that the telephone companies were able to raise money in such a short time are ample examples of manipulation. Now he believes the Indian Government's only option is to sell the cancelled licenses again in an auction to the highest possible price. Gopikrishnan guess Telenor must have to pay between three and four billion kroner to restore the licenses Uninor lost, corresponding to 17-23 million kroner. 

This weekend Gopikrishnan is attending journalists' conference of SKUP in Tonsberg town.
For me, this is not a scoop. For me it was luck in the career. I met a whistleblower and he guided me. I only made the job a journalist should do, he says when asked about his comments on the journalistic work.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mahatma Gandhi on Journalism

Famous quotes of Mahatma Gandhi on Journalism :  

The sole aim of journalism should be service.

Journalism has become the art of “intelligent anticipation of events.”

Journalism should never be prostituted for selfish ends or for the sake of merely earning livelihood or, worse still, for amassing money.

Journalism has a distinct place in familiarizing and expressing public opinion.

A Journalist’s peculiar function is to read the mind of the country and to give definite and fearless expression to that mind.

The newspaperman has become a walking plague. He spreads the contagion of lies and calumnies.

The press was called the Fourth Estate. It was definitely a power but to misuse that power was criminal.

Newspaper today had almost replaced the Bible, the Koran, the Gita and other religious scriptures.

The newspapers should be read for the study of facts. They should not be allowed to kill the habit of independent thinking.

In the East, as in the West, the newspapers are fast becoming the people’s Bible, the Koran The Zend-Avesta and the Gita rolled into one.

Freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forego.

An itch for new is a variety of dissipation, debilitating to the mind and spirit, unless it is properly curbed.

The liberty of the press is a dear privilege, apart from the advisability or otherwise of civil disobedience.

The newspapers had become more important to the average man than the scriptures.

Courtesy : http://www.gandhi-manibhavan.org/