No wrongdoing by Chidambaram in Aircel-Maxis deal: Govt

Source : IANS
Last Updated: Mon, May 14, 2012 12:59 hrs
​India's bad luck may be just beginning

New Delhi: Amidst allegations from opposition over Home Minister P. Chidambaram's involvement in the 2006 Aircel-Maxis telecom deal, the government on Monday denied any wrongdoing in the deal.

Chidambaram gave a clarification in the Rajya Sabha after fresh opposition uproar, while Mukherjee read out an identical statement in both houses.

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

Chidambaram, who was finance minister at that time, said that no illegitimate transfers were made to any company involving any of his family members. "Neither I, nor any member of my family has any equity in any telecom company."

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

As the opposition insisted that the present finance minister should give a clarification, Mukherjee said in both houses that there was "no scope for misunderstanding and misinformation" on the issue.

"There is no scope for any misunderstanding and misinformation in both cases there was no delay in granting the approvals," Mukherjee said in his statement.

The issue was raised in the upper house by Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley. He did not take any names, but alluded that Ausbridge -- in which Advantage Consultancy, partly owned by Chidambaram's son Karthi, had a stake -- received money from Aircel.

Seeking to give more details, 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 FICB clearance to the Aircel-Maxis deal.

The home minister, however, said his "family" had nothing to do with Ausbridge.

"It is true my son had shares in Advantage Consultancy. But young men have all the right to start a business. He invested Rs.1.8 lakh in the company, which had another share holder -- Rajesh," the home minister said.

The minister, however, said Karthi had sold his share in the firm to his friend and had no holdings in the company. He further clarified that Advantage took shares in Ausbridge only in 2011, much after the 2006 clearance to the Aircel-Maxis deal.

The leader of opposition questioned how both Ausbridge and Advantage had the same e-mail address in 2006, to which Chidambaram said he was not aware "if they shared the same web address".

"I don't deny that the promoters of Ausbridge and Advantage did know each other. All are doing business in Chennai," he said.

He also 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.

He also dismissed allegations for delaying the process of clearance.

Giving the dates on which the application for investment was made and the final approval was granted, Mukherjee said it was clear that the proposal was processed in the normal course and approval granted in the normal course without any delay.

In Rajya Sabha, however, opposition members said they wanted more clarifications. The finance minister assured that time would fixed for clarifications.

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