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Tuesday 2 June 2020

Aircel-Maxis: P Chidambaram appears before ED for second time

He was summoned for today after he was first questioned on 5 June by the agency, a department that reported to him during his tenure in the Finance Ministry



New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday questioned former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram for a second time in the Rs 3,500 crore Aircel-Maxis deal case, officials said. An ED official said Chidambaram appeared for questioning at the ED’s office around 11 AM.

Earlier, a Delhi court had extended the interim protection to him from arrest till 10 July in connection with the case, after directing him to join the probe whenever required. It was the second time when the Congress leader joined the probe.

The ED had issued a fresh summons to him to appear before the investigating officer of the case. The agency recorded his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He was summoned by the agency, a department that reported to him during his tenure in the Finance Ministry.

It is understood that the agency wants to put across a fresh set of questions to him regarding the deal and decisions taken by him. The agency had recorded his statement for six hours on various aspects last time.

The ED had earlier recorded statements of FIPB officials when this deal took place and it is expected that Chidambaram may be confronted with these too.

Chidambaram’s son Karti has already been questioned by the ED in this case, twice.

He also had said that there is no FIR, yet a probe had been initiated.

“More than half the time taken up by typing the answers without errors, reading the statement and signing it! he had said in his tweet.

The ED had first asked him to appear before it on 30 May and on the same day, Chidambaram knocked the court’s door.

The court, in its order on 30 May, had noted that Chidambaram has undertaken to comply with the summons issued by the ED while saying he apprehended his arrest by the agency.

The Aircel-Maxis cases pertain to grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to firm M/S Global Communication Holding Services Ltd in 2006 for investment in Aircel.

The Supreme Court had on 12 March directed investigating agencies— the CBI and the ED — to complete their probe into the 2G spectrum allocation cases, including the Aircel Maxis, alleged money laundering case, in six months.

The agency had said that the FIPB approval in the Aircel-Maxis FDI case was granted in March 2006 by Chidambaram even though he was competent to accord approval on project proposals only up to Rs 600 crore and beyond that, it required the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

The ED is investigating “the circumstances of the FIPB approval granted (in 2006) by the then finance minister”.

“In the instant case, the approval for FDI of $800 million (over Rs 3,500 crore) was sought. Hence, the CCEA was competent to grant the approval.

The agency said its probe revealed that the case of the said FDI was “wrongly projected as an investment of Rs 180 crore so that it need not be sent to the CCEA to avoid a detailed scrutiny”.

The ED is probing the Aircel-Maxis deal under the PMLA after taking cognisance of a 2011 CBI FIR in the case.

The senior Chidambaram had earlier described the ED action in this case as a “crazy mixture of falsehoods and conjectures” and said that the charge sheet filed by probe agencies was rejected by the court.



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