Indian cops in Malaysia over Maxis-Aircel probe
UPDATED @ 09:53:57 AM 24-04-2012
KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 — Indian police are heading here in a bid to gain access to information related to Maxis Berhad’s controversial acquisition of Indian telco Aircel that allegedly involved RM351 million in kickbacks to former Indian Telecommunications Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother.
The Times of India reported this morning Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) teams will leave for Malaysia and Singapore later this week to hold talks with authorities there to seek details of the deal involving the telco owned by communications magnate T. Ananda Krishnan.
“The agency wants to know details of some financial transactions... besides recording the statement of a non-executive director of the company who has been named... by CBI in October last year,” it reported, referring to Ananda’s right-hand man Ralph Marshall.
“A CBI team (will meet) Malaysian authorities, including its legal department, for early action on its plea,” news agency Press Trust of India also reported last night, referring to a request by India’s courts earlier this month for financial documents related to the Maxis-Aircel deal.
The CBI had filed the graft case on October 10 last year against Ananda, who controls Southeast Asia’s largest multimedia and telecommunications empire, Marshall, who is a non-executive director at Maxis, and the Marans.
It alleged that Ananda’s satellite broadcaster Astro All Asia Networks’ “highly inflated” purchase of shares in Sun Direct TV contributed RM351 million in illegal gratification to the Marans who denied Aircel seven licences and other facilities, forcing Sivasankaran to sell a 74 per cent stake to Maxis.
Both Dayanidhi and Maxis have denied any wrongdoing, with the latter insisting its RM2.5 billion purchase of the Aircel stake from Sivasankaran was on a willing-buyer, willing seller basis and the Indian businessman retained a 26 per cent holding to gain “upside benefits” should the company be floated.
The telecommunications giant said that Sivasankaran only complained to the CBI after his claims were dismissed by international arbitrators earlier this year, more than five years after the deal was done on December 30, 2005.
Astro also told the CBI that its purchase of 20 per cent of Sun TV was a legitimate transaction between two long-standing business partners who have had dealings since 1996.
The probe was earlier confined to Malaysia and Mauritius in connection with the routing of funds for the Aircel takeover but the money trail later led CBI to other countries including the United Kingdom and Bermuda.
The four countries were sent letters of requests from India earlier this month asking them to provide financial documents related to the Maxis-Aircel deal.
The formal requests were made by a special Indian court following an application by the CBI.
It has also been reported that the CBI is due to question Dayanidhi by the end of the month and has told India’s Supreme Court it will present a charge sheet by the end of May.