Government says no wrongdoing in clearing Aircel-Maxis deal (Second Lead)

Mon, May 14 2012 20:18 IST | 0 Views | Add your comment
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New Delhi, May 14
P Chidambaram

Dismissing opposition charges that led to an uproar in Parliament yet again, the government Monday denied any wrongdoing in granting clearance to the Rs.4,000 crore Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006, particularly the involvement of then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the decision.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee made statements in both the Houses, giving details about dates of application for investment and the grant of final approval by the foreign investment promotion board (FIPB).

He said there were two separate proposals which were processed in "normal course" without any delay.

"There is no scope for any misunderstanding and misinterpretation... In both cases, there was no delay in granting the approval," Mukherjee said.

Chidambaram, who has been under attack by the opposition for the alleged involvement of his son Karthi, himself denied any illegality by any member of his family or himself and said the company in question, Advantage Strategic Consulting, could be probed by the finance ministry.

Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley alluded the FIPB clearance to Aircel-Maxis with business transactions of Ausbridge, a company earlier co-owned by Chidambaram's son, saying the e-mail and web address of Ausbridge Holdings and Investments and Advantage Strategic Consulting, which is alleged to have invested in Aircel-Maxis, were the same in 2006.

The Opposition alleged the company of the home minister's son was transferred money, before the FIPB cleared a proposal from Aircel pertaining to its telecom service venture in 2006.

An emotional Chidambaram, however, clarified that neither he or his family had any connection with Aircel or any other telecom company.

"Plunge a dagger in my heart rather than question my integrity," he said.

Jaitley said Maxis, the Malaysian company which acquired shares in Aircel, had declared to Malaysian stock exchange that it acquired more than 99 percent shares in Aircel.

But the Indian policy permits no more than 74 percent share to foreign investors in telecom ventures. The money was allegedly transferred by Aircel Chief C. Sivasankaran on the eve of FIPB clearance to the Aircel-Maxis deal.

The home minister, however, said whether or not the Malaysian company gave wrong information to some other country could be examined by the finance ministry. But the FIPB gave its clearance in 2006 for a stake below 74 percent.

The opposition's, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party's charges against Chidambram has been making the rounds after Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy last month alleged that the then finance minister had withheld the FIPB clearance to the deal till his son got the five per cent shares in the firm.

Last week, the Lok Sabha was repeatedly interrupted over the issue, with the opposition demanding Chdambaram's resignation.

Aircel, which has over 62 million subscribers across the country, is very popular in Tamil Nadu, Assam, North- East and Chennai.

The firm was also an avid runner in the race for 3G and BWA spectrum. It paid Rs.6,499.46 crore for 3G spectrum in 13 circles and Rs.3,438 crore for BWA (broadband wireless access) spectrum in 8 circles.

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