The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday questioned Karti Chidambaram, son of Congress leader P. Chidambaram, for allegedly receiving kickbacks for getting FIPB clearance in the Aircel-Maxis deal when his father was the Finance Minister in 2006.
The junior Chidambaram was questioned at the Directorate’s headquarters here over the alleged money laundering through his firms in the Aircel-Maxis tie-up.
During its investigation, the ED has so far found that Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Ltd promoted by Karti and A. Palaniappan, nephew of Chidambaram, allegedly received two lakh dollars from Maxis Group in the guise of software consultancy.
The ED is probing financial irregularities committed as per the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in the case, which is also being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Both agencies are trying to find out how Karti allegedly managed to get a clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
The ED in September last year had also attached Rs 1.16-crore assets belonging Karti in connection with the case. A special court here on March 24 granted him interim protection from arrest, till April 16.
According to the CBI chargesheet submitted in the special court, Mauritius-based Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd., a subsidiary of Maxis, had sought approval for an investment of $800 million in Aircel.
Though it was the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), headed by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which was competent to grant the approval, it was cleared by then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on his own and the amount for FIPB clearance was wrongly projected to conceal the facts.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy has alleged that Chidambram had then tweaked FIPB norms for clearing Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006.
Seeking a probe into the role of Chidambaram in alleged violation of norms by the FIPB in approving the deal, Swamy has referred to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)’s 2015 report which points to two alleged illegalities.
According to Swamy, the CAG cited the illegality of FIPB approving Maxis’ acquisition of 93.3 per cent stake in Aircel Tele Ventures Ltd through its wholly-owned subsidiary, the GCSHL, well in excess of the then ceiling of 74 per cent investment by a foreign entity.
The second illegality, Swamy has said, was that since the foreign investment in Aircel was more than Rs 600 crore, it should have gone to the CCEA for approval, but it was instead cleared by the FIPB.
Karti is also an accused in the INX Media Case where he has been charged with receiving irregular FIPB clearance for investments up to Rs 305 crore.