The Aircel-Maxis row on Monday led to fresh uproar in Rajya Sabha with the Opposition targeting with fresh allegations the son of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who denied any wrongdoing and said the company in question ‘Advantage Consulting’ could be probed by Finance Ministry.
Linking the controversial FIPB clearance to Aircel-Maxis with business transactions of Ausbridge, a company earlier owned by Mr. Chidambaram’s son, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said the e-mail and web address of Ausbridge Holdings and Investments and Advantage Strategic Consulting, that had a shareholding in Aircel Maxis, were the same in 2006.
Mr. Chidamabram insisted that “no member of my family or I have any equity at any time indirectly or directly or have any investment in any Telecom company...We have no connection with any Telecom company or have any share in any telecom company.”
At the same time, he downplayed the fresh charges that the e-mail and website address of Ausbridge and Advantage were the same in 2006, saying, “If they have the same website address, I am not aware...Even if they had a same website address, what is the relevance of that.”
Mr. Chidambaram, who was the Finance Minister in 2006, said “Nobody is saying that promoters of Advantage and Ausbridge do not know each other. Both are in Chennai and doing business... young people are entitled to start legitimate businesses.”
As the Opposition refused to accept his argument that the money transaction between the two companies was related to some consultancy service, Chidambaram said, “If you want to look into the book of account of Advantage consulting... I will certainly convey to the Finance Minister... if you want to examine the transactions... I will be the happiest person... let Finance Ministry look into accounts of Advantage.”
The Opposition was not convinced at his reply and disrupted the House again when it met after lunch, leading to two adjournments.
Striking an emotive note, Mr. Chidambaram noted that he was happy that the issue was being raised by his friend of 22 years (Jaitley) and said, “...it would be much simpler if somebody took a dagger and plunged into my heart rather than questioning my integrity.”
At this, Mr. Jaitley retorted that “our concern is not to plunge a dagger in somebody’s heart...the purity and fairness of the government must be maintained.”
Mr. Chidambaram said 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 and the company is now owned by the first partner Rajesh and his wife.
Seeking to clarify that Advantage and Ausbridge had no connection in 2006, when the FIPB clearance was granted to Aircel-Maxis, he said Ausbridge made a passive investment of Rs. 5 lakh in Advantage Consulting only in March 2011.
“Ausbridge had no holding in Advantage in 2006, 2007 or 2008. This passive investment made in 2011 obviously has no connection” with the Aircel-Maxis deal that happened five years ago in 2006, Mr. Chidambaram said.
He stressed that Ausbridge does not own Advantage consultancy, which is owned by two promoters, who had no concern with him or his family.
“So what is wrong if a young man puts Rs 1.8 lakh into a company and that company after five years makes a passive investment”... in another company, the Home Minister argued.
Pointing out the fact that Ausbridge and Advantage had the same e—mail and website address, Jaitley said this was in fact considered as “clinching evidence” to be considered and to be as “collusive” even in the 2G case.