Date: 08 May 2012

Comment \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ 8.5.12\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ 2G scam: PM should dismiss PC. More lies from Govt. Govt trapped in own web of deceit \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ BELLIGERENCE AS COVER\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Questions on Aircel-Maxis deal unanswered (Pioneer Edit, 9 May 2012) Serious questions of Ministerial impropriety have been raised by this newspaper in exclusive reports on the acquisition of Aircel Cellular Ltd by Maxis, a Malaysia-based telecom firm, published on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Aircel-Maxis deal of 2006 has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for some time now. The then Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran has had to resign from the Union Cabinet and his role in that acquisition deal is being scrutinised by the CBI; the last word on why and how Aircel, a company on the verge of bankruptcy in 2005, was sold for a whopping `4,000 crore to a little-known entity is yet to be heard. But the alleged deal-fixing through reportedly unsavoury means is only one part of the messy Aircel-Maxis story. The other, and no less important, part is about whether the then Finance Minister (and now Minister for Home Affairs) P Chidambaram also had a finger in the Aircel-Maxis pie which helped his son Karti earn a huge profit from the deal by first cornering a five per cent stake in Aircel and then offloading it to Maxis when it acquired 74 per cent stake in the company. Mr Chidambaram has denied any wrong-doing on his part. He has emphatically denied that as Finance Minister he sat on FIPB approval for Maxis to acquire Aircel; that clearance was given in March and not October 2006 and, hence, the question of delaying the deal to facilitate his son’s windfall profit-making does not arise. However, neither his denial nor the UPA Government’s stout defence of Mr Chidambaram stands up to scrutiny. Records suggest that there is a divergence between what the Minister and the Government claim, and the evidence on hand. Surprisingly, unmindful of the potentially damaging consequences of continued denial premised on dubious claims, the Government has shown little wisdom in adopting a belligerent posture after the Opposition took up the issue in Parliament on Tuesday. Even at this stage had the Government offered to look into the allegations in a free and fair manner would have helped it avoid further embarrassment. But it has chosen to brazen it out, much as it did in the early days when the 2G Spectrum scam was exposed by this newspaper. By the time the Government realised that defending the indefensible was outright foolish and damaging to its already tarred image, enormous damage had been inflicted by the Great 2G Spectrum Robbery whose stain will forever tarnish the UPA and whose shadow shall continue to stalk the Congress and the Prime Minister, no matter how hard they try to shake it off. There is no percentage in being obstinate and refusing to clarify valid doubts that have been raised — by this newspaper and parliamentarians — about the Aircel-Maxis deal. The evidence that militates against the Government’s claim and the Minister’s denial is too overwhelming to be disregarded. The explanation, such as it is, has been too flip and simplistic to be taken seriously. As today’s front page report points out, there is clearly more to the deal than meets the eye. The Government must explain, and convincingly so, why the records do not reflect what it claims to be the factual position. Or else it should admit that there were lapses and these can’t be attributed to ‘coalition compulsion’. Nothing less will suffice.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Govt trapped in own web of deceit\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ WEDNESDAY, 09 MAY 2012 00:20 J GOPIKRISHNAN | NEW DELHI \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ The UPA Government finds itself caught in a web of deception in its bid to defend Home Minister P Chidambaram’s role in the Aircel-Maxis deal.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ On Tuesday, reacting to The Pioneer report on the gross discrepancies on the FIPB approval timing and delay of Aircel-Maxis deal, the Government insisted that the first approval was given on March 7, 2006 and second one for downstream investment on October 3, 2006. Maxis’ subsidiary of Mauritius-based Global Communication Services Holding Ltd invested in Aircel, as claimed by the Government.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ However, records nail the Government lie. The facts remain that on March 7, 2006, the Government gave approval to two companies — from USA and Singapore — to raise their stake in Aircel/Global Communication Services Holding Ltd, both Indian firms.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ This is established by a PIB Press release dated March 14, 2006 which states that under ‘Economic Affairs’ category (item no : 7 of the PIB Press release on FIPB approvals), M/s Century Telephone Enterprise Inc of USA and M/s Rediongton Pte Ltd were given sanction to enhance their foreign equity of 49 per cent in Aircel/Global Communication Services Holding Ltd to 74%. The value of foreign investment was shown as only Rs 180 crore. Curiously, in this case, Global Communication Services Holding Ltd is shown as an Indian investor along with Aircel.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ The PIB release dated March 14, 2006 has no mention of Global Communication Services Holding Ltd acquiring any stake in Aircel. The Pioneer on Tuesday reported that the FIPB approval for the acquisition of Aircel by Global Communication Services Holding Ltd was given only on October 3, 2006.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ While insisting that the first FIBP clearance was given to deal on March 7, Government’s Tuesday release claimed that on October 3, FIPB gave subsequent approval for downstream investment by Global Communication Services Holding Ltd in Aircel. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ But, throughout the controversy, the Government has not come out with any documents to show that the FIPB under Chidambaram on March 7 gave any clearance to Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd to make any investment in Aircel. Unless the Government comes out with clear evidence to establish this, Chidambaram will find it difficult to deny allegations levelled by the Opposition that he purposefully delayed the clearance to benefit his son Karti.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Terming The Pioneer report on Tuesday as “factually incorrect and totally baseless” the Government on behalf of Ministry of Finance reiterated that FIPB chaired by Chidambaram as Finance Minister approved the deal on March 7, 2006. “Government had earlier issued a Press release on April 28, 2012 regarding the foreign investment made by M/s Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd, Mauritius to acquire 73.99 per cent equity in M/s Aircel Ltd. The contents of that statement are correct and are reiterated,” said the Press release titled “Clarification on AIRCEL issue”. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ The Government must also clarify on the companies — Century Telephone Enterprise from USA and Rediongton Pte Ltd. According to the CBI FIR, Maxis invested around Rs 4,000 crore in Aircel by May 2006. Then how did FIPB arrive at foreign investment figure of just Rs 180 crore for increased 25 per cent shares?\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Meanwhile, on the same day, March 7, 2006, FIPB under “Telecommunication” category (item No: 19) approved foreign investment of similar named company called BT Global Communication (Mauritius) Ltd. This company got approval to acquire 74 per cent in an unnamed Delhi-based company’s landline telephone operations for around Rs 9 crore.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ It is also a mystery how in October 3, 2006, Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd, which was shown as an Indian entity on March 7, became a foreign investor in Aircel and Dishnet on October 3. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ ================================== 000000000