Aircel Maxis Case: Just No Proof, Says Judge, Ending Corruption Case Against Dayanidhi Maran

NEW DELHI: Former union minister Dayanidhi Maran will not be tried for alleged corruption, a Delhi judge ruled today in what is known as the Aircel-Maxis case. Mr Maran had been accused by investigating agencies of helping Malaysian group Maxis to acquire Aircel in exchange for a huge kickback of nearly 700 crores.

In 2014, the CBI filed charges against Mr Maran, his media mogul brother Kalanithi Maran and T Ananda Krishana, a Malaysian tycoon, for colluding to allow Maxis take control of Aircel, a Chennai-based company owned at the time by C Sivasankaran. He has alleged that as Telecom Minister, Mr Maran withheld crucial permissions and clearances as a pressure tactic till he sold the telecom to Maxis in 2006.

The CBI says that after the transaction, 700 crores was routed “as illegal gratification” to the Marans, in part through the Sun Group, which runs a media business including television channels and satellite TV services, and is headed by the minister’s billionaire brother in Chennai. The charges against the Marans and the Maxis owner included criminal conspiracy. A separate case of money-laundering was filed against them by the Enforcement Directorate, which handles financial crimes.

The Marans and Mr Ananda Krishnan have denied the allegations. Describing today’s verdict as a vindication, the former minister and DMK leader said, “This was a witch hunt against me, I hope nobody goes through an ordeal like this.”  The court today spoke of contradictory statements from witnesses, “speculations and surmises” by Mr Sivasankaran, and no evidence to prove the kickback as reasons for dismantling the case. “This is a dangerous trend…If such practice is followed, anybody and everybody in government can be made to face prosecution,” Judge OP Saini said in his order.

Mr Maran was Telecom Minister between 2004 and 2007; he was replaced in Dr Manmohan Singh’s cabinet by A Raja, who, like Mr Maran, is from the DMK, and has been charged as the architect of another huge telecom swindle – “the 2G scam”. Investigators say he accepted large bribes for allotting out-of-turn licenses to firms, while throwing in valuable spectrum or second-wave airwaves for free.

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