“Dayanidhi as Telecom Minister misused office in Aircel deal”

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday conducted simultaneous searches on the premises of the former Union Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, and his elder brother and Sun Network managing director, Kalanithi Maran, in connection with a case arising out of the Aircel-Maxis deal.

Special teams conducted the searches in New Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad, sources in the agency said. Earlier, the CBI registered a case against the Maran brothers as well as against Ralph Marshall and T. Ananda Krishnan of Maxis Communications, Malaysia. The agency has also named three private companies, including SUN Direct TV and Maxis Communications, in the First Information Report (FIR).

The CBI had been conducting a preliminary enquiry into the Aircel-Maxis deal in the past few months. The agency also named M/s Astro All Asia Networks, U.K., and other unknown officials and persons among the accused.

While Marshall is Director of M/s Astro All Asia Networks and M/s Maxis Communications Bhd, Malaysia, Ananda Krishnan heads M/s Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd, Malaysia.

“The case has been registered under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 7, 12 and Section 13 (2) read with Section 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988,” CBI spokesperson Dharini Mishra said in Delhi.

In Chennai, searches were being conducted at the homes of the Marans in the Boat Club area and Murasoli Maran Towers that houses the Sun Network.

According to the FIR, Mr. Dayanidhi Maran, as Telecom Minister, allegedly misused his office to help Ananda Krishnan, a business tycoon from Malaysia, to acquire Indian telecom firm Aircel. The CBI has alleged that in return, Ananda Krishnan invested close to Rs.800 crore in Sun Network through a sister concern of the Maxis group.

The CBI also searched the premises of Suneeta Reddy, Executive Director of Apollo Hospitals, in Chennai and Hyderabad, even though she has not been named in the FIR. She had served as Chairperson of Aircel and invested in it.

In his statement to the CBI, the former Aircel owner, C. Sivasankaran, alleged that Mr. Dayanidhi Maran delayed grant of licences to Aircel. However, within months of Aircel changing hands to the Maxis group, Mr. Maran's Ministry issued 14 Letters of Intents, which were converted into licences in December 2006.

Mr. Dayanidhi Maran, who was Textiles Minister in UPA-II, resigned in July this year. The Marans were questioned by the CBI last month.

The former Minister has denied all charges, including pressuring Mr. Sivasankaran into selling Aircel.

Documents seized

Special teams that searched the premises of Mr. Dayanidhi Maran and others seized documents pertaining to the Aircel-Maxis deal, a CBI official said.

“The case was registered after prima facie offence was made out in the preliminary enquiry. For weeks, the agency gathered documentary evidence in connection with the allegations involving the former Union Minister, his brother and others. The teams have seized some documents pertaining to the case during the day-long search that ended around 5.30 p.m.,” the CBI official said.

According to a CBI official, when the team reached the house of the Maran brothers, a private security guard stopped them, saying he had no instructions to let them in. After about 20 minutes, the team managed to make their way in along with a household staff member, who entered the campus.

While Mr. Dayanidhi Maran was away, Mr. Kalanithi Maran was at home when the search took place, the official said.