Aircel-Maxis case: Special Court discharges Maran brothers, other accused

A Special court today discharged all accused in Aircel Maxis deal case, involving former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother  Kalanidhi Maran, Malaysian businessman C Shivashankaran and others.

Special Judge OP Saini discharged Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran, his wife Kavery Kalanithi, South Asia FM Ltd (SAFL) managing director K Shanmugam and two companies - SAFL and Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd (SDTPL) in two different cases.

The court was hearing two different cases related to Aircel-Maxis deal lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the Maran brothers, Chennai-based firm Sun Direct TV, Malaysian businessman T A Ananth Krishnan, his aide Augustus Ralph Marshall, and the two accused firms - Maxis Communications Berhad and Astro All Asia Networks, both of Malaysia.

The CBI had alleged that Dayanidhi Maran, as minister in the UPA-I government, used his influence to help Malaysian businessman Ananda Krishnan buy Aircel by coercing its owner Sivasankaran to part with his stake.

All the accused had denied the allegations against them made by the investigating agencies and had moved bail pleas.

The agencies had filed charges against them for alleged offences punishable under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The ED had filed charges against accused Maran brothers, Kalanithi's wife Kavery, managing director of South Asia FM Ltd (SAFL) K Shanmugam, SAFL and Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd (SDTPL) under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The court had summoned the six accused after taking cognisance of the ED's charges, saying there was "enough incriminating material" to proceed against them.

While arguing on the issue of framing of charge against him, Dayanidhi had claimed that during the time period in which the alleged crime was committed, as claimed by CBI, Sivasankaran was in talks with several companies to sell his stakes in Aircel.

It was only in October 2005 that the business transaction between Aircel and Maxis was finalised, his counsel had said.

His brother Kalanithi had also argued that CBI's claim was false and the complainant was himself eager for the business and that he was being falsely implicated in the case.

The court had on 24 September issued open warrants of arrest against Krishnan and Marshall on CBI's plea stating that summons issued to them could not be served.
 
It had also ordered that the trial against Maran brothers and two accused companies be segregated from that of those based in Malaysia - Krishnan, Marshall, and two firms, Astro All Asia Network PLC and Maxis Communication Berhad, saying their appearance may take a long time which may lead to a delay in the proceedings.

During the arguments earlier, ED's special prosecutor N K Matta had claimed that there were money transactions which allegedly showed that SDTPL and SAFL had received Rs742.58 crore as "proceeds of crime" from Mauritius-based firms in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
The agency had claimed that "proceeds of crime" amounting to Rs549.03 crore and Rs193.55 crore were received by SDTPL and SAFL, allegedly controlled by co-accused Kalanithi, through various Mauritius-based entities.