Malaysia

Indian ex-minister to be hauled up over Aircel-Maxis deal

NEW DELHI, March 16 — Indian authorities are due to summon former telecommunications minister Dayanidhi Maran over allegations of receiving illegal gratification to facilitate the takeover of Aircel by Malaysian telco Maxis Berhad, The Asian Age reported.

According to the report, India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) will interview Dayanidhi over his role in the transaction that took place during his time in the Indian government.

“While Dayanidhi is expected to be questioned on March 20, his brother Kalanithi may be questioned separately on March 21,” the Indian newspaper reported.

The ED earlier initiated a money laundering probe against the two brothers over improprieties linked to the Aircel sale to Maxis.

It was previously reported that India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said the minister had denied telco company Aircel seven licences and other facilities, forcing its owner C. Sivasankaran to sell a 74 per cent stake to Maxis.

Maxis was accused of providing “illegal gratification” to Dayanidhi by paying “highly inflated” prices for shares in Sun Direct TV held by the former minister’s brother.

The CBI said that after the “change of ownership to Maxis Communications... undue favours... were [done] for mala fide considerations.”

“An illegal gratification of Rs549,96,01,793 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.),” it added.

Maxis previously insisted its RM2.5 billion purchase of 74 per cent of Aircel from Sivasankaran was on a willing-buyer, willing seller basis and said Sivasankaran retained 26 per cent of Aircel to gain “upside benefits” should Aircel 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 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.

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