Aircel-Maxis deal: No holy cows to protect, says Arun Jaitley

Congress, Left protest immediate taking up of discussion on the case on notice of BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab; AIADMK initiates debate.

Updated - November 17, 2021 04:47 am IST

Published - March 02, 2016 04:04 pm IST - New Delhi

With new charges against former Union Minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti surfacing over Aircel-Maxis deal, the government on Wednesday asserted in Lok Sabha that there are “no holy cows” to protect and action will be taken against those found guilty, “howsoever important” one may be.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that Enforcement Directorate and investigative wing of the Income Tax department, during recent searches in connection with the Aircel-Maxis deal, have recovered several “incriminating” documents which are being scrutinised and charge sheets will be filed.

Replying to a short duration discussion on Aircel-Maxis deal in the wake of vociferous demand for action by the AIADMK which has been disrupting the House since on Tuesday, Mr. Jaitley said the matter is being probed by three investigating agencies and it would be taken to the logical conclusion.

“No one will be spared. We have no holy cows to protect. The government is going to the root of each one of these cases,” said Jaitley, who also holds Corporate Affairs portfolio. Refuting allegations that the government was going slow in the 2G and Aircel-Maxis cases as “absolutely incorrect”, he said in all these cases, “where CBI has come to a prima facie opinion that an offence has been committed, chargesheets have been filed and the trials are going on”.

Mr. Jaitley said, “Whatever was the stand of the earlier government, we have not been influenced by that stand at all. The investigative agencies have absolute freedom to professionally record the entire evidence and if they come to an opinion that some people prima facie guilty, the investigating agencies are free to take actions.”

For the second day on Tuesday, Parliament proceedings have been disrupted by the AIADMK members who were demanding action against Mr. Karti Chidambaram following reports that he has invested huge sums of money in various countries based on searches conducted at his premises and other related companies.

Mr. Jaitley said the government is completely committed to absolute probity.

“... It all started with the infamous 2G case. Then, the extension of the case was... it led to the Aircel-Maxis issue which has now further led to a third category of cases,” the Finance Minister said.

Responding to queries by certain members on whether FIR have been filed in these cases, he said under the law, there is no need to file FIR and only charge sheets are filed once the investigations are completed.

“All I can say is that whatever action has to be taken under the law, under different provisions, once the violation is detected, investigations will be taken to their logical conclusion,” he said.

“... All facts, including facts in relation to certain entities which have been named, I am not consciously using those names because these matters are under investigation,” Mr. Jaitley noted.

Mr. Jaitley said on January 8, 2016, a charge sheet and a compliant has been filed in court by the ED and on February 27, the court took congnisance of that charge sheet.

“Notices have gone to the various accused who will now be tried in the Aircel-Maxis case and they will have to face trial and (it is) eventually for the court now to decide,” the Minister said.

According to him, a “lot of incriminating” material has been seized and details of assets held by certain entities in India and abroad have also been obtained.

“Pursuant to that entire information, witnesses are being recorded, those documents are being analysed, letters Rogatory have been sent by the ED to several countries,” he noted.

In these cases, he said the three Acts involved are related to Income Tax, Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), and Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA).

Mr. Jaitley said in the course of investigations, a series of raids were conducted by the Income Tax department and the ED against several companies, more particularly in Chennai. This was followed up by raids against other companies also, he added.

“I must straightaway at this stage place a particular limitation on myself and that limitation is on account of two factors. There is a provision in the Income Tax Act, as also in the PMLA, under which I cannot make public the details of the investigation.

“Secondly based on another very important principle that if investigations are at a crucial stage and third set of cases has reached a very critical stage, then disclosure of that investigation material publicly may actually prejudice the investigation.

“So I am therefore both in law and at the matter of propriety constrained from placing the details of those investigations,” Mr. Jaitley noted.

Demands for an urgent CBI inquiry into the issue was made during the discussion, with AIADMK members alleging involvement of Mr. Karti Chidambaram in the “shady deal” which they claimed had links with the 2G scam.

Participating in the special discussion, T.J. Venkatesh (AIADMK) also repeatedly referred to two former Union Ministers from the DMK and a former Finance Minister in the UPA-II by name but Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowed it.

Mr. Venkatesh regretted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power on the promise of unearthing black money, but his government was doing precious little to bring to book those behind the Aircel-Maxis deal which, according to the AIADMK member, “has deep roots in the infamous 2G scam, the biggest in independent India”.

Amid loud protests from the Congress and Left members, the debate was taken up with Ms. Mahajan saying she had got a notice of BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab for a discussion on the matter and she was allowing it.

The Congress and Left members were protesting against the immediate taking up of discussion on the Aircel-Maxis issue when the Motion of Thanks for the President for his address was still being debated by the House. Congress members were heard protesting the “match-fixing” between a section of the Opposition and the government.

The Congress and the Left members later staged a walkout when Mr. Venkatesh started speaking after Mr. Mahtab initiated the debate.

Mr. Mahtab claimed that no FIR has been lodged yet in the Aircel-Maxis deal and the CBI and the ED have not filed charge sheet so far, despite the fact that the money laundering trail in the deal has allegedly spread to 14 countries including British Virgin Islands.

Mr. Mahtab, who was interrupted sometimes even by Trinamool Congress’s Saugata Roy, wondered whether the BJP and the Congress were “doing a match-fixing” by ensuring no action in the deal allegedly involving some of the powerful people in the UPA-II.

The Speaker earlier allowed the discussion by overruling the points of order raised by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Mr. Roy.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu made a strong pitch for such a debate noting that there were umpteen number of discussions on the Ayodhya issue and those related to Gujarat earlier despite the matters being sub judice.

Earlier, AIADMK MPs created ruckus in the Lok Sabha for the second day on Wednesday demanding action against Mr. Karti Chidambaram.

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