The CBI Thursday named former Union Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, his son Karti Chidambaram, ten other individuals, including officers, and six firms as accused in a fresh chargesheet relating to the Aircel Maxis case. It was filed in a Delhi court which has fixed the matter for consideration on July 31.
In its chargesheet filed before Special Judge O P Saini, the CBI alleged that Chidambaram and all other accused entered into a “criminal conspiracy” with others, and that he abused his official position being the Union Finance Minister form 2006 to 2012.
“Investigation has established that the accused persons… entered into a criminal conspiracy among themselves during the year 2006 to 2012 and in pursuance thereof, accused P Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister, by abusing his official position, dishonestly and fraudulently granted approval to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) proposal of M/S Global Communication Berhad, Malaysia for foreign investment of U$800 million (Rs 3,560 crore) for which he was not competent,” the chargesheet said.
Soon after the filing of the chargesheet, P Chidambaram, in a tweet, said, “CBI has been pressured to file a chargesheet to support a preposterous allegation against me and officers with a sterling reputation. The case is now before the Hon’ble Court and it will be contested vigorously. I shall make no more public comment.”
He had earlier been granted protection from arrest until August 7.
The chargesheet listed alleged offences of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), public servant taking illegal gratification, punishment for abetting this offence, and public servant committing criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act. If convicted, the offences entail a maximum punishment of seven years.
The CBI said it probed how Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister in 2006, granted FIPB approval to a foreign firm when only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it. In its chargesheet, the CBI urged the court to take cognizance of offence and issue process to the accused persons to face trial.
It said that during the investigation it was established that P Chidambaram “received illegal gratification of Rs 26,00,444 as quid pro quo through his son Karti Chidambaram in the company M/S Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd controlled by him in the garb of providing management consultancy service to M/S Aircel Televentures Ltd”.
The Enforcement Directorate is also probing a separate money laundering case in the Aircel-Maxis deal in which Chidambaram and Karti have been questioned by the agency. Both have denied the allegations levelled against them by the two probe agencies.
The CBI chargesheet also named as accused, among others, retired senior bureaucrats Ashok Chawla and Ashok Jha. When approval for FDI in Aircel was given by FIPB, Chawla was Additional Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) while Ashok Jha was Secretary.
The other accused are DEA officials Kumar Sanjay Krishna, then joint secretary; Deepak Kumar Singh, then director; and, Ram Sharan, then Under Secretary. Apart from officials, the list of accused includes Karti’s chartered accountant S Bhaskararaman, his company’s executive A Palaniappan, Aircel owner T Ananthkrishnan, his employee V Srinivasan and Agustus Ralph Marshal.
Companies such as M/s Chess Management Global and M/s Advantage Strategic Pvt Ltd (ASCPL) — which the agency claimed were allegedly controlled by Karti — M/s Astro All Asia Networks Plc Malaysia, M/s Maxis Mobile SDN BHD Malaysia, M/s Bumi Armada Berhad Malaysia and M/s Bumi Armada Navigation SDN BHD Malaysia have also been listed as accused.
While the Aircel-Maxis case is part of the 2G FIR, the CBI insisted that this was not a supplementary chargesheet in the case but a separate and fresh chargesheet dealing with FIPB approval of the case.
According to the CBI chargesheet, days after FIPB approval was given to the Aircel-Maxis deal, Rs 26 lakh were paid to ASCPL. A company associated with Maxis paid another Rs 87 lakh to Chess Management Global where Karti is a director.
It also said that “ accused P Chidambaram received illegal gratification of Rs 87,60, 681 as quo pro quo through his son in his company M/s Chess Management Services Pvt Ltd in the garb of providing ELCM (a software) services to Malaysia-based accused companies”.