New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday told the Supreme Court it is yet to find any corroborative evidence against former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran to show that he “coerced” entrepreneur C. Sivasankaran to sell Aircel Ltd to Malaysia-based Maxis Communications Bhd and that he received kickbacks in return.
However, the agency maintained that it has not finished investigating the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader, who was forced to resign from the Union cabinet after Sivasankaran made allegations of impropriety and corruption against him. The agency submitted its latest status report to the court, which has been monitoring the probe since December.
CBI, which has already registered a preliminary enquiry over the second-generation (2G) spectrum allocation between 2001 and 2008, is examining the alleged quid pro quo between the Maxis group and Sun TV, owned by Maran’s brother Kalanithi Maran. Dayanidhi Maran allegedly forced Sivasankaran to sell the stake to Maxis before awarding 14 telecom licences. In return, Maxis made an investment of around Rs600 crore in Sun TV.
Maran, who was telecom minister between 2004 and 2007, had strenuously denied the allegations against him.
“We do not have any evidence yet to show if he actually coerced Sivasankaran to sell Aircel to Maxis. But we are still investigating him,” a high-ranking CBI official said on condition of anonymity.
“Maran is being investigated for allegedly showing undue favour to Maxis Communications after it acquired Aircel. He hastily cleared the award of telecom licences applied by Aircel before the buyout,” the official added.
Another CBI official said: “It is being investigated (whether) money changed hands while awarding telecom licences to Maxis.”
CBI officials said they would be calling Maran and other top executives associated with the deal, including T. Ananda Krishnan, promoter of Maxis, to record their statements within a fortnight.
Sivasankaran, a non-resident Indian who rarely makes public appearances, deposed before the investigative agency in June. He briefed investigators about how he was “forced” to sell the Aircel stake to Maxis.
CBI counsel K.K. Venugopal told the court hearing the 2G case on Thursday that the company taking over Aircel was in contact with both Dayanidhi and Kalanithi Maran at the time.
Venugopal said Jaswant Singh, finance minister during the National Democratic Alliance government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), would also be questioned on 2G licences and policy. Singh headed a group of ministers on the issue of limited mobility and unified licensing in 2003.
The agency, which filed a fresh status report on its inquiry, said it was investigating the allocation of spectrum during 2001-07, when Pramod Mahajan, Arun Shourie and Maran were telecom ministers.
The court had asked CBI’s counsel if the agency intended to question Shourie, Maran and others in connection with the probe into the earlier allocation of licences.
BJP national spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the party had nothing to hide and would fully cooperate with CBI.
The 2G bench comprising justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly also asked CBI what other steps it had taken apart from interrogations.
The agency may register a fresh case after it files the second chargesheet in the 2G case, which is scheduled to take place on 15 September. On the same day, the special 2G trial court is expected to deliver its verdict on whether charges will be framed against the accused on the earlier chargesheets, and if so, who would face which specific charges.
CBI has so far filed one main chargesheet and a supplementary chargesheet in the case involving former Union telecom minister and Maran’s party colleague A. Raja, another party colleague K. Kanimozhi, and several top executives of three companies.
The agency told the Supreme Court that another chargesheet will be filed before 15 September.
CBI’s lawyer said the agency is currently examining the “legal question of associate companies”, as one of the companies under investigation is being charged with violating telecom licence guidelines through a network of associate companies. Venugopal also referred to legal opinions from the law ministry and the ministry of corporate affairs on this issue.
Three officials belonging to Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Group have been charged with violating the Unified Access Services guidelines for having more than a 10% stake in Swan Telecom (now Etisalat DB Telecom Services Pvt. Ltd), which also applied for the licences.
While several details of the probe could not be verified as the status reports were presented to the court in a sealed cover, CBI made references to money trails in the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Mauritius, Cyprus and Jersey. The agency said it had a specialized banking and financial unit, which included a general manager of the Reserve Bank of India, which was getting details from banks in these territories.
The income-tax department, which is also probing the matter, said it was still investigating companies in this case and that it would complete its inquiry for the assessment year 2008-09 only by 31 December.
PTI contributed to this story.