Billionaire Ananda among 12 charged in India over telco scandal

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian billionaire T Ananda Krishnan and his former aide Augustus Ralph Marshall are among a dozen people who are facing charges of bribery linked to the Aircel-Maxis scandal in India.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has also named former finance minister from the Congress party P Chidambaram, and his son Karthi.

Chidambaram is accused of presiding over a meeting of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in 2006 which cleared the Aircel-Maxis deal in which irregularities were found.

The charge sheet was filed before special judge OP Saini, who fixed Jul 31 for hearing.

In August 2014, the CBI accused former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi, Ananda, Marshall, and four companies, including Maxis Communication Bhd, of being involved in alleged kickbacks.

The CBI alleged that Dayanidhi had “pressured” and “forced” Chennai-based telecom promoter C Sivasankaran to sell his stake in Aircel and two subsidiary companies to Maxis Group in 2006.

Later, in a quid pro quo, Maxis allegedly invested Rs 650 crore in Sun TV network, run by the Maran brothers, the CBI said.

A court had already ruled that the evidence was not sufficient to prosecute the Maran brothers. Prosecutors are appealing this decision at India’s Supreme Court, according to media reports.

However, that ruling did not have any effect on the two Malaysians and Maxis as the court had earlier segregated the trial against the Malaysians from that of the Indians, reports said.

Maxis, from the beginning of the case, asserted that all its dealings regarding Aircel were in accordance with India’s laws.

Ananda spent some US$800 million to purchase mobile carrier Aircel in 2006.

Over the years, Maxis in which he owns a 45% stake was said to have made US$3.4 billion of shareholder advances to Aircel.

Bloomberg quoted people with knowledge of the matter as saying that Maxis had also bought US$1.2 billion of common stock and subscribed to US$1.6 billion of redeemable preference shares.

However, Aircel which is 74%-owned by Maxis, filed to start bankruptcy proceedings in March. Sources told Bloomberg that Ananda stood to lose all the money poured into Aircel since 2006.

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