No relief for Marans as Madras HC dismisses plea in Aircel-Maxis case

Sun TV Network's petition against the attachment of its property by the Enforcement Directorate suffered a setback on Wednesday after the Madras high court rejected a petition by the Maran brothers challenging the Enforcement Director's powers.

The petition, filed by Kalanithi Maran, media tycoon and promoter of Sun TV Network and Kal Cables, sought to quash the ED order attaching properties worth Rs742 crore owned by him and his brother, former union minister Dayanidhi Maran.

The Maran brothers were charged with illegal gratification and money laundering in a deal between telecom company Aircel and Malaysia-based Maxis Communication in 2006.

It was said that the Marans' business fortunes rose in direct proportion to the political power they enjoyed - both at the centre and in Tamil Nadu when the DMK government was in power.

Dismissing the plea, Justice M Sathyanarayanan said the plea was not maintainable as money laundering matters were under the consideration of the Supreme Court. He advised the petitioner to approach the top court in the matter.

Senior counsels Kapil Sibal and P S Raman, appearing for Maran, submitted that the company was not an accused in the case pending with the Supreme Court. "We are not meeting an investigation," said Sibal and submitted that the high Court could hear the petition.

Raman argued that the properties attached were not connected to the case and that the ED undervalued the properties.

The counsel for ED opposed any relief to the petitioners saying that the matter was being heard by the Supreme Court, where 2G spectrum case and related matters were being considered.

The CBI, which probed the deal, had filed charges against the Maran brothers, Malaysian business man T Ananthakrishnan and his company Maxis Communications, Sun Direct TV and Astro All Asia Networks among others, in 2011.
 
CBI has charged Dayanidhi Maran, then the telecom minister, of stalling approvals for spectrum licences to Aircel, while he was the union telecom minister between 2004 and 2007, forcing owner Sivasankaran to sell his company to Maxis Communication.

Dayanidhi Maran favoured the Malaysian firm and granted it a licence within six months of it buying out Aircel, CBI said.

Around the same time Maxis invested Rs742 crore in Sun Group, owned by Kalanithi Maran, allegedly as quid pro quo.

Sun TV Network in its petition said that it has no direct or indirect links with the companies alleged to have received and utilised the proceeds of crime.

The petition said the order is bad in law as it is a blanket order without even identifying and specifying the properties attached, which is mandatory under PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act).

The properties attached include Kalanithi Maran's shares worth Rs139 crore in Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd, free hold land and building owned by Sun Network TV Pvt Ltd worth Rs266 crore, land and building owned by Kal Comm Pvt Ltd worth Rs171.55 crore, fixed deposit held by Kalanithi Maran of Rs100 crore, fixed deposit held by South Asia FM Ltd worth Rs31.34 crore, fixed deposits held by Dayanidhi Maran and others for Rs7.47 crore and fixed deposits and mutual funds held by Kaveri Kalanithi worth Rs1.30 crore and Rs1.78 crore, respectively.