Five babus in soup over Aircel Maxis
Govt clears prosecution, NSE ex-chairman among officials
New Delhi: Nearly six months after they were chargesheeted, the Centre has allowed prosecution of five officials – serving and retired bureaucrats – who are co-accused with former finance minister P Chidambaram in the Aircel Maxis case. This was disclosed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in a special court on Friday.
The co-accused officers are former finance secretaries Ashok Jha and Ashok Chawla, two serving IAS officers Kumar Sanjay Krishnan of Assam cadre, Deepak Kumar Singh of Bihar cadre, and retired under secretary Ram Saran.
Hours after the disclosure, Ashok Chawla resigned from the post of Chairman of the National Stock Exchange. Chawla also served as the chancellor of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) University. He is a former chairman of the Competition Commission of India (CCI). He was an IAS officer of the 1973 batch of Gujarat cadre.
Ashok Kumar Jha is a member of advisory board of IIFL Home Finance Limited (formerly known as India Infoline Housing Finance Limited) and had served as a nonexecutive independent director for the Great Eastern Energy Corporation Limited from March 2010 to July 2018. He has been a non-executive independent director of Minda Corporation Limited since November 14, 2014 and an independent
director of Nuziveedu Seeds Limited since July 26, 2013. Earlier, Jha had served as the finance secretary.
The agency in the chargesheet accused these officers, then working in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), of illegally approving the foreign investment clearance to Malaysian firm Maxis to acquire mobile phone operator Aircel.
Jha was serving as secretary (economic affairs), Chawla was an additional secretary, Krishna was a joint secretary, and Singh was a director in the ministry.
The case refers to a 2006 investment in Aircel Ltd by Malaysia’s Maxis Communications which, according to CBI, was a violation of the then prevailing foreign investments laws.
The CBI has said that despite investment of over Rs 3,500 crore was made in Aircel by Maxis and it was only the Cabinet committee on economic affairs could have granted approval.
However, the investment proposal was wrongly projected as merely involving an investment of Rs 180 crore and approval was granted by the then finance minister P Chidambaram.