Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for the second time for a fresh round of questioning pertaining to the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case. Earlier, on 5th June, he had appeared before the country's premier law enforcement agency to provide justification for decisions taken by him in 2006 while serving as the country's Finance Minister under the UPA.
The senior Congress leader is being questioned under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002. The first round of questioning lasted for almost six hours, and the current one is expected to follow on similar lines. Chidambaram is being probed regarding the procedures adopted by the now-defunct Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) while giving a go-ahead to the Aircel-Maxis deal.
In 2006, the FIPB gave clearance to M/S Global Communication Holding Services Ltd. to make investments in Aircel to the tune of Rs. 3,500 crore. The ED alleges that Chidambaram was competent to grant approval to projects only up to Rs. 600 crore. Any project exceeding the said monetary limit required the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), which was not taken by the then Finance Minister.
"In the instant case, the approval for FDI of USD 800 million (over Rs. 3,500 crore) was sought. Hence, the CCEA was competent to grant the approval", the law enforcement agency stated. It further added, "Probe into the matter revealed that the case of the said FDI was wrongly projected as an investment of Rs. 180 crore so that it need not be sent to the CCEA in order to avoid a detailed scrutiny".
While Chidambaram claims that the ED's action in this case is a "crazy mixture of falsehoods and conjectures"; the agency maintains that the court is taking cognizance of the FIR filed by the CBI.
In February, the CBI had also arrested Karti Chidambaram, son of P Chidambaram, on suspicion of his involvement in the Aircel-Maxis deal. He was, however, released on bail in March by the Delhi High Court.