Marans not guilty in Aircel case
In a big relief to Maran brothers, the 2G Court on Thursday discharged all the accused in the Aircel-Maxis case blaming the CBI for sticking to “speculation and surmises.” The order pronounced by Special Judge OP Saini is a big snub for the CBI for registering a case against former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran on the allegation of Aircel promoter Sivasankaran that he was arm-twisted by the Minister to sell Aircel to Malaysian company Maxis.
The Marans brothers were also discharged from the Enforcement Directorate charge in alleged money laundering case. As per the order, the attachment of Rs 745-crore worth properties of SUN TV by the ED also stands cancelled. However, the order would not have any effect on the two accused, Malaysian nationals Ralph Marshall and T Ananda Krishnan, as the court has already segregated the trial against them from that of Maran brothers and others.
The CBI filed the FIR at the fag-end of 2011 against Maran brothers and filed chargesheet against them in August 2014. The CBI also gave the details of violations committed by then Finance Minister P Chidambaram in granting Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance in 2006 to the Aircel-Maxis deal but the agency did not finish the probe.
The CBI had filed a chargesheet against the Maran brothers, Ralph Marshall, T Ananda Krishnan, M/s Sun Direct TV (P) Ltd, M/s Astro All Asia Networks Plc, UK, M/s Maxis Communications Berhad, Malaysia, M/s South Asia Entertainment Holdings Ltd, Malaysia and then Additional Secretary (Telecom) J S Sarma who died during the course of the probe.
Besides Maran brothers, the court discharged two companies — M/s Sun Direct TV (P) Ltd (SDTPL) and M/s South Asia Entertainment Holdings Ltd. During arguments on framing of charges, Special Public Prosecutor Anand Grover had claimed that Dayanidhi had “pressurised” Chennai-based telecom promoter C Sivasankaran to sell his stakes in Aircel and two subsidiary firms to Malaysian firm Maxis Group in 2006.
The charge was strongly refuted by Dayanidhi Maran. All the accused had denied allegations against them made by the investigating agencies and had moved bail pleas. In the money laundering case, ED had chargesheeted the Maran brothers, Kalanithi’s wife Kavery, Managing Director of South Asia FM Ltd (SAFL) K Shanmugam, SAFL and Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd (SDTPL) under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The court had on September 24, 2016 issued open warrants of arrest against Krishnan and Marshall on CBI’s plea stating that summons issued to them could not be served. Previous month, Supreme Court has ordered DoT to attach the Spectrum of Aircel, if the Malaysian owners are not coming to 2G Court in two weeks.
On Friday, the Supreme Court is hearing this matter along with BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s petition that the CBI has not filed chargesheet against Chidambaram for the FIPB violations in the deal. In the Discharge Order, Special Judge Saini observed that many officers did many delays in the file in the Aircel licence, except then Telecom Secretary Nripendra Mishra, who is currently Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Court said Misra took firm stand and due diligence while other officers took doubtful stands on files.
“In contrast to these officers there is a Secretary Nirpendra Mishra who performed his duties with due diligence and confidence and never shied away from recording his views on file,” said the order.
“In view of the above discussion I am satisfied that the entire case is based on the misreading of the official files, contradictory statements of the witnesses as well as speculations and surmises of Sivasankaran,” said the order, giving clean chit to Maran brothers for armtwisting the Aircel owner to sell his company to Maxis.
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