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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday registered a case against DMK MP and former UPA minister Dayanidhi Maran in connection with the Aircel-Maxis deal of 2005-06. It was followed by early morning raids at his house and offices in Chennai and Delhi.
An FIR was also filed against his brother and Sun TV promoter Kalanithi Maran, Malaysian business tycoon and Maxis owner T Ananda Krishnan and Maxis director Ralph Marshall. The agency has named Sun Direct, Astro All Asia Networks (UK), and Maxis along with some ‘unknown officials’ in the FIR as co-accused.
Aircel was sold to the T Ananda Krishnan-promoted Maxis Communications and Sindya Securities & Investments Pvt Ltd owned by Suneetha Reddy and husband P Dwarakanath Reddy more than five years ago.
Suneetha is Apollo promoter Prathap Reddy’s daughter. She is not part of the FIR though her premises too were raided on Monday. The FIR has come after months of a preliminary inquiry into the alleged Aircel-Maxis nexus. CBI has filed a case of criminal conspiracy against all the accused under section 120-B of Prevention of Corruption Act.
Senior Congress leaders said off the record that relations with the DMK were at an all-time low. “Law is taking its own course and we would not like to comment,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari. The BJP demanded all those involved in the 2G spectrum allocation scam must be arrested by the CBI. There was no official statement from the Marans’ side or the DMK.
Meanwhile, Apollo Hospitals Group, which owns Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd, said neither a group company nor its founder and vice-chairman Prathap C Reddy had any investment in Aircel Ltd or any other telecom firm.
The group said in a statement, “The investments in privately held telecom company Aircel Ltd were held by Sindya Securities and Investments Pvt Ltd, a company founded by Suneeta Reddy and her husband P Dwarakanath Reddy.”
CBI officials said the Marans received kickbacks from the Malaysian firm in the form of investments into Sun Direct after the Aircel-Maxis deal was struck. Krishnan paid Rs 3,390.82 crore for 74 per cent equity in Aircel. Astro, also a part of Ananda Krishnan’s media-telecom empire, announced a $160 million investment in Sun Direct for a 20 per cent stake. Last year, Astro raised its stake in Sun Direct to 35 per cent.
Sun Direct is the direct-to-home arm of the Sun group, which is promoted by Dayanidhi’s brother Kalanithi Maran.
“There is a case of quid pro quo against the Marans. We are in the process of gathering more documented evidence,” a CBI official said. Maran has been accused in the FIR of abusing his official position and receiving illegal gratification. Maxis has also invested in the Sun TV network owned by the Maran family. While Maxis holds 74 per cent in Aircel, Sindya Securities & Investments Pvt Ltd has the remaining 26 per cent.
CBI has seized documents of spectrum and licence allocation to Sun Direct from the department of telecommunications.
Earlier, CBI had told the Supreme Court Maran had deliberately delayed the issuance of a letter of intent to Aircel when it was owned by C Sivasanakaran. CBI had, however, said no evidence of coercion was found against Maran for the sale of Aircel to the Maxis group. The agency has quizzed the Maran brothers on several occasions, besides Marshall and Suneetha Reddy.