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Govt,PC deny fresh charges,list dates to show no Aircel delay

Opposition mounted an attack on P Chidambaram’s family in Parliament with fresh charges.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: May 14, 2012 12:55:18 am

As the Opposition today mounted an attack on Home Minister P Chidambaram’s family in Parliament with fresh charges,the government again ruled out any wrongdoing in the grant of FIPB clearance to the Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006.

“…it would be much simpler if somebody took a dagger and plunged into my heart rather than questioning my integrity,” an emotive Chidambaram said,while adding that he was happy that the issue was being raised by his friend of 22 years (BJP leader Arun Jaitley). Chidambaram 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.

Seeking to clear the air over the issue that has rocked Parliament for the past few days and led to several adjournments today,Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee made statements in both the Houses,dismissing allegation of any delay in the deal.

Jaitley sought explanation on three issues on FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) clearance: the sale of entire shareholding of Aircel, when FDI cap is 74 per cent; payment of Rs 34 crore for 26 per cent against the market value of Rs 1,250 crore; and the e-mail and web addresses of Ausbridge Holdings and Investments and Advantage Strategic Consulting,that had a shareholding in Aircel Maxis,being the same in 2006. Ausbridge was partially owned by a member of Chidambaram’s family.

Replying that “no member of my family or I have had any equity at any time indirectly or directly or have any investment in any telecom company”,Chidambaram said: “The payment of Rs 26.44 lakh to Advantage by Aircel Televentures in 2006 was paid against consultancy.”

On the issue of the same website and e-mail addresses,the Home Minister said” “If they have the same website address,I am not aware… Even if they had the same website address,what is the relevance of that?”

Jaitley later said: “It is not a convincing explanation. Companies are promoted,friends are investing… you have to read the footprints that are left behind.”

The Opposition rallied behind Jaitley,saying that family members of Chidambaram and the company dealing with Aircel were known to each other. “Nobody is saying that promoters of Advantage and Ausbridge do not know each other,” Chidambaram replied. “Both are in Chennai and doing business… Young people are entitled to start legitimate businesses.”

He also offered that the books of accounts of Advantage consulting be examined with the help of the Finance Ministry. He added that Ausbridge was started with a capital of Rs 2 lakh by two young persons,including his son,who had invested Rs 1.8 lakh in it but later transferred his shares. The company is now owned by the first partner and chief promoter Rajesh and his wife.

The company earlier partially owned by his son had made a passive investment of Rs 5 lakh in Advantage Consultancy in March 2011,almost five years after the FIPB clearance was granted to Aircel,Chidambaram pointed out. This passive investment made in 2011 obviously has “no connection” with the Aircel-Maxis deal that happened in 2006,he said.

Listing the important dates,Chidambaram said the FIPB took 49 days to grant approval in the first case for enhancing equity from 26 per cent to 73.99 per cent while it took 40 days in the other application for allowing downstream investments of Global to Dishnet. “In both cases,there was no delay whatsoever.”

Chidamabaram also said that Advantage has categorically stated it owes no equity in any telecom company,including Aircel,the investing company of Maxis.

Giving details on the dates of application for investment and the grant of final FIPB approval,Mukherjee said there were two separate proposals which processed in “normal course” without any delay.

“There is no scope for any misunderstanding and misinterpretation,” he said.

Financial investment was made by Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd,Mauritius,to acquire 73.99 per cent equity in Aircel Ltd on January 6,2006. FIPB approval was granted on March 7,2006,after the ministries and departments concerned took the “normal time” to offer their comments,he said.

Another application was received on September 1,2006 for downstream investment by Global Communications through Aircel Ltd in Dishnet Wireless Ltd,and the final approval was granted on October 20,2006,Mukherjee added.

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