With CBI getting sanction to prosecute former union minister P Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis case, the investigation into the case has entered its final phase. P Chidambaram and his son Karti are accused of receiving a bribe in exchange for illegal approval to the Aircel-Maxis deal granted by the then finance minister.
With the case finally gaining momentum, it is time to revisit some other aspects of the case. One of that is the alleged involvement of NDTV. Income Tax officer Sanjay Kumar Srivastava, who has been exposing financial irregularities by NDTV, had made a sensational claim that P Chidambaram had parked his bribe money in the controversial media house.
In an 88 page letter written to the CBI chief in April this year, Srivastava had said that “NDTV Ltd. needs to be investigated over parking of bribe of US $40 million by Maxis and its owner T. Ananda Krishnan (accused in the Aircel-Maxis case) on behalf of P Chidambaram and Karti P. Chidambaram for obtaining FIPB approval in Rs.3500 crores. Aircel-Maxis deal fraudulently claiming the proposal for Rs.180 crores only when gross value of the proposal was to be considered and which has been hushed up by certain IRS officers in lieu of bribe paid by NDTV Ltd.”
As per FDI policy in force at that time, FDI proposals above ₹600 crore needed to be cleared by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), while FDI below this amount could be approved by the finance ministry. According to allegations, the Aircel-Maxis deal was for ₹3,500 crores, but it was shown as the share price of ₹180 crore and share premium of ₹3320 crore, and approval was sought for only the ₹180 crore part. As it was below the limit for CCEA approval, finance minister P Chidambaram had sanctioned the approval.
In return for this favour, Karti Chidambaram was paid $40 million, which was routed through NDTV Ltd, Srivastava alleges. He has written that the transaction was “disguised as a purchase of shares (49% indirect stake whatever that may mean) of NDTV Lifestyle Holdings Pvt. Ltd wholly owned by NDTV Networks Plc, UK which was wholly owned by NDTV Networks BV, Holland and which in turn was wholly owned by NDTV Ltd, India and all of which were sham letterbox companies owned and floated by NDTV Ltd to launder the proceeds of crime bring the bribe paid to the Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Karti by various entities by All Astro Asia Networks Plc, UK wholly owned subsidiary of the Maxis Ltd an T Ananda Krishnan.”
The Income Tax officer goes on to add that “the fraudulent nature of the transaction between NDTV and Maxis is borne out from the fact that Maxis Ltd never cared to carry its investment or seek any return on that or get involved in the affairs of the company which was 49% owned by Maxis Ltd & had just forgotten their huge investment of about Rs.200 crores with NDTV Ltd and its subsidiaries. The case was hushed up by the NDTV Ltd by paying a bribe to the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officers.”
Srivastava has noted that CBI is investigating multiple cases of bribes paid by NDTV to Income Tax officers and embezzlement of ₹1,46,82,836 from government account by NDTV. According to him, these cases and the case of bribe received by Karti Chidambaram are interrelated and interconnected. Because P Chidambaram was the final authority involved to grant necessary approvals and he is the common thread in all criminal conspiracies and bribe transactions, says the letter.
Srivastava attached many internal documents of NDTV in his 88-page letter in support of his allegations. He had requested CBI that the cases of bribes paid by NDTV to I-T officers and bribe received by Karti should be handled by the same division of CBI, as they are related to each other.
Relevant portions of the letter by S K Srivastava to CBI have been enclosed below: