In a development which can eventually have far-reaching political implications, former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Tuesday was grilled for almost six hours by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with Aircel-Maxis case to record his statement. According to ED sources, Chidambaram was confronted with documentary evidence gathered by the agency pertaining to this case.
The ED questioned him based on the statement given by then FIPB officials on the alleged role played by the former Finance Minister in giving FIPB approvals of over Rs 3,500 crore. Chidambaram reached the ED office at Jamnagar House at 11 am. According to sources, the investigators, prepared with questions pertaining to Aircel-Maxis case started grilling the former minister, minutes after he arrived.
In the afternoon, he was allowed to leave the ED office for one hour to have lunch. According to sources, the agency is likely to summon him again in connection with this case.
According to allegations by the ED, at least 54 files of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approvals are under the scanner. This was corroborated by Finance Ministry officials who were examined by the ED. According to the ED, these FIPB approvals were wrongfully given.
At least 2,721 files related to FIBP approvals were scanned by the ED. These approvals were given from May 2004 to 2009 and August 2012 to May 2014.
"As many as 54 files of FIPB were shortlisted and examined further in respect of said approval by the then finance minister given to Aircel Ltd on 20.03.2006 in Aircel-Maxis deal," according to ED documents accessed by India Today. ED documents also indicate that the role of then Finance Minister P Chidambaram is under the scanner.
In fact, the agencies have also informed the court about the role played by Chidambaram. "As per the government policy and FIPB guidelines as applicable in 2006 where the total foreign inflow is 600 crore and above, the competent authority was CCEA to give approval for foreign investment. As the total inflow of foreign exchange involved in the acquisition of shares of Aircel Ltd was Rs 3,520 cr, therefore CCEA was the competent authority to give FIPB approval but the approval was given by the then finance minister," the document states.
The Central Bureau of Investigation has also summoned P Chidambaram to remain present before the agency on June 6, in connection with INX-Media case.
CRUX OF CASE
Enforcement Directorate has alleged that Chidambaram, during his tenure as Finance Minister, cleared Rs 3,500 crore FDI proposal for Aircel.
The investigation agency says that the Finance Minister at the time did not have the power to clear FDI proposals exceeding Rs 600 crore.
ED has stated that the Rs 3,500 crore proposal should have been sent to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for approval. However, this was not done in the Aircel-Maxis case.
The Supreme Court had on March 12 directed the CBI and the ED to complete their probes into the 2G spectrum allocation cases, including the Aircel-Maxis case, in six months.