Ex-Indian minister to face charges over kickbacks from Ananda Krishnan’s Maxis

(The Malaysian Insider) – Federal investigators in New Delhi are poised to file charges against former Indian Telecommunications Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother over RM312 million in kickbacks allegedly received from Ananda Krishnan’s Maxis to facilitate its acquisition of Indian telco Aircel, the Times of India reported today.

The newspaper did not, however, say if Ananda or Astro chief Ralph Marshall, who was also implicated in the investigations, would face any charges.

Reuters reported yesterday that Ananda was selling up to 375 million shares worth around RM2.35 billion in the country’s largest mobile phone operator Maxis Bhd, but it is unclear if the sale is related to what is happening in India.

The Times of India reported today that the country’s Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) was looking to charge Sun TV’s Kalanithi Maran as well as Dayanidhi Maran, the former minister, over allegations they received 5.49 billion rupees (RM312 million) in kickbacks when Maxis bought a majority stake in Aircel in 2006.

According to the Indian daily, the CBI’s investigation will show Dayanidhi as telecoms minister, favoured Maxis in return for a kickback.

The paper added that the CBI had presented a status report on the case to a parliamentary panel.

Sun TV shares fell as much as 22 per cent on the report, before partly recovering to be down 11.5 per cent.

Maxis shares also fell today on news of Ananda’s proposed sale. At 3pm it was trading at RM6.38, down 16 sen.

In April, CBI investigators came to Malaysia to gain access to information related to Maxis’s controversial acquisition of Aircel.

According to Reuters, the CBI in October last year started formally investigating the Maran brothers and Ananda, owner of Maxis, over their roles in a sprawling telecoms scandal.

A CBI source told Reuters that the agency earlier this month questioned Dayanidhi. The source declined to be named as the probe was continuing.

The Times of India in its report today said CBI has almost concluded investigations in the Aircel-Maxis case and had claimed illegal gratification was accepted by Dayanidhi through Kalanithi in the garb of premium share investment in family-controlled Sun Direct.

The agency also claimed that as telecoms minister, he blocked the legitimate requests of Dishnet DSL, paving the way for the Maxis takeover.

In a status report to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on telecom on Tuesday, CBI said mala fide considerations and an “illegal gratification” of Rs549 crore (RM312 million) were behind the “active intervention” of Dayanidhi and Kalanithi in curbing the business interests of Aircel’s former owner C. Sivasankaran.

Alleging a Maran-Maxis nexus, CBI said “it is prima facie revealed that the active intervention of Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi Maran in restricting business environment of Siva Group, change of ownership to M/s Maxis Communications and undue favours post this change was for mala fide considerations,” the newspaper reported.

The newspaper said that in its report CBI said “undue favours” were offered to Maxis even after it took over Aircel and these were part of a plan involving Dayanidhi when he was telecoms minister.

“An illegal gratification of Rs549,96,01,793 (RM312 million) was accepted as quid pro quo through his brother Kalanithi Maran in the garb of share premium invested in Sun Direct by M/s South Asia Entertainment Holdings which was a fully owned subsidiary of M/s Astro All Asia Networks,” the CBI said as reported by the Times of India.

The CBI added that Marshall of Maxis, on behalf of the firm’s owner Ananda, was in touch with Dayanidhi and Kalanithi prior to Aircel changing hands.

Ananda, Malaysia’s second-richest man, has been selling some of his assets. 

The latest deal to sell down his stake in Maxis follows a US$2.8 billion (RM8.7 billion) sale of his power assets, a proposal to hive off a stake in his satellite operator MEASAT Global in March and the sale of a minor stake in offshore oilfield services firm Bumi Armada Bhd in April.

Ananda also plans to re-list pay-TV firm Astro All Asia Networks by end-September in a deal that could fetch around US$1.5 billion.