Govt defends Chidambaram, says no wrongdoing in Aircel-Maxis deal

New Delhi: Government today sought to clear the air over the Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006, ruling out any wrongdoing by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the grant of FIPB clearance as Opposition mounted attack on his family with fresh charges in Parliament.

Chidambaram, whose son was targeted by the Opposition, himself denied any illegality by any member of his family or himself and said the company in question 'Advantage Strategic Consulting' could be probed by Finance Ministry.

Linking the controversial FIPB clearance to Aircel-Maxis with business transactions of Ausbridge, a company earlier co-owned by Chidambaram's son, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha that the e-mail and web address of Ausbridge Holdings and Investments and Advantage Strategic Consulting, which is alleged to have invested in Aircel-Maxis, were the same in 2006.

The Home Minister denied that his family had stake in any telecom company. AFP

Seeking to clear the air over the issue which has rocked Parliament for last few days, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee made statements in both the Houses, dismissing allegation of any delay in the deal.

Giving details about dates of application for investment and the grant of final FIPB approval, Mukherjee said there were two separate proposals which processed in "normal course" without any delay.

"There is no scope for any misunderstanding and misinterpretation.....In both cases there was no delay in
granting the approval", he said.

He was responding to a question by Jaitley as to whether Advantage Strategic Consulting company had a dealing with Aircel-Maxis on "the eve of" FIPB clearance and what was the nature of this.

Mukherjee said financial investment was made by Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd, Mauritius, to acquire 73.99 per cent equity in Aircel Ltd on January 6, 2006. FIPB approval was granted to it on March 7, 2006 after the ministries and departments concerned took the "normal time" of four to six weeks to offer their comments, he said.

Another application was received on September 1, 2006 for downstream investment by Global Communications through Aircel Ltd in Dishnet Wireless Ltd, the Finance Minister said, adding the final approval was granted to it on October 20, 2006.

Jaitley was unconvinced, saying the Opposition's queries were beyond what Mukherjee has made statement on. Reacting to this, the Minister said he will reply after going through the proceedings of the House.
Earlier, the Opposition, particularly BJP and AIADMK, created uproar in the Rajya Sabha while levelling allegations against Chidambaram's family.

Chidamabram, while making an emotive speech, insisted that "no member of my family or I have any equity at any time indirectly or directly or have any investment in any Telecom company....We have no connection with any Telecom company or have any share in any telecom company."

He downplayed the fresh charges that the e-mail and website address of Ausbridge and Advantage were the same in 2006, saying, "If they have the same website address, I am not aware...Even if they had a same website address, what is the relevance of that."

As the Opposition refused to accept his argument that money transaction between the two companies was related to some consultancy service, Chidambaram said, "If you want to look into the book of account of Advantage consulting, ...I will certainly convey to the Finance Minister...if you want to examine the transactions...I will be the happiest person...let Finance Ministry look into accounts of Advantage."

Chidambaram, who was the Finance Minister in 2006, said, "Nobody is saying that promoters of Advantage and Ausbridge do not know each other. Both are in Chennai and doing business ....young people are entitled to start legitimate businesses."

The Opposition was not convinced with his reply and disrupted the House again when it met after lunch, leading to two adjournments.

PTI

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