They accepted illegal gratification of Rs.549.96 crore in the garb of share premium: FIR

The Central Bureau of Investigation's new FIR on the 2G spectrum scam has levelled serious allegations against the former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother and Sun TV network head Kalanithi Maran, and Malaysian business tycoon and head of Maxis Communications T. Ananda Krishnan of coercing C. Sivasankaran, former owner of Aircel Televentures, to sell his equity in Aircel. Mr. Dayanidhi Maran denied Mr. Sivasankaran's company seven pending UAS licences, 2G spectrum in various circles, and Point of Interconnection facility from the State owned BSNL.

The CBI pegged the illegal gratification that accrued to the Maran brothers at Rs.549.96 crore, through the purchase of Sun Direct TV shares by Astro All Asia Networks Plc. (a related company of Maxis Communications) at a “highly inflated” rate.

The FIR was annexed with an application moved by the CBI in the special court, hearing the 2G spectrum scam cases, seeking warrants to search nine residential/official premises including the residences of the Maran brothers.

“Enquiry has brought out that the active intervention of Mr. Dayanidhi Maran and Mr. Kalanithi Maran in restricting the business environment for the Siva Group, change of ownership to Maxis Communications, and undue favours post this change were [done] for mala fide considerations. An illegal gratification of Rs.549,96,01,793 was accepted as a quid pro quo through his brother Kalanithi Maran in the garb of share premium invested in Sun Direct TV by South Asia Entertainment Holdings (a fully owned subsidiary of Astro All Asia Networks Plc.),” the CBI alleged.

“Mr. Dayanidhi Maran by abusing his official position deliberately caused undue delays and denials of legitimate requests of Dishnet DSL (Aircel), rendering disservice to Dishnet DSL, and paved the way for Maxis Communications to acquire Aircel Televentures from Mr. Sivasankaran. Enquiry has also revealed that Mr. Dayanidhi Maran and Mr. Kalanithi Maran, apart from being brothers, also have business associations for long.”

After Mr. Maran took over as Telecom Minister on May 26, 2004, trouble began for Aircel with the sale of two of its operational companies to raise money to invest in new licences being stalled by the Minister. Approval for this sale was sought on June 28, 2004, but Aircel finally withdrew this application March 7, 2005, without getting the approval.

Though Aircel was unanimously recommended for issuance of Letters of Intent for two circles in Uttar Pradesh, the CBI alleges Mr. Maran “retained the file with him for 44 days” and sought clarifications on “frivolous and uncalled for objections,” though no such queries were raised for two other companies whose LoIs were issued at the same time.

The process of grant of the UAS licences and allotment of the 2G spectrum to the Aircel was again blocked by Mr. Maran on the ground that show-cause notices had been issued to the company. Despite legal opinion that the notices should be de-linked from the issuance of the spectrum, the Minister did not back down until the Aircel ownership changed hands. The CBI enquiry revealed that Mr. Maran had held up the allotment of spectrum to Dishnet DSL in Bihar until the Aircel-Maxis deal was reached.

The CBI alleged that the Maran brothers facilitated the Aircel-Maxis deal and that on November 12, 2005, Mr. Sivasankaran had a meeting with Mr. Kalanithi Maran at which he was told “to sell 100 per cent equity of Aircel to Maxis only.” “The same day, he [Sivasankaran] received a call from Mr. Dayanidhi Maran directing him to sell 100 per cent equity of Aircel and assuring him that he[Dayanidhi] would clear the deal.”

The CBI enquiry found that the monetary transaction relating to Astro All Asia Networks Plc. buying shares in Sun Direct TV happened in tranches from 2005 to 2008 and that Sun Direct TV's valuation was “highly inflated.” Though a non-operational company with no business investments till then, it was valued higher than Tata Sky, the market leader.

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