India court calls for financial documents for Maxis-Aircel probe

Investigators ask four countries including Malaysia to provide financial documents, following allegations that former Indian telecommunications minister had illegally profited from Maxis purchase of Aircel stake, report states.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

India has sent four countries letters of requests to provide financial documents related to Malaysia's Maxis Berhad's acquisition of Indian telco Aircel.

According to the Malaysian Insider in a Sunday report, Indian investigators are probing the acquisition of Aircel by Maxis for elements of graft. This comes after a March report where telecommunications minister Dayanidhi Maran had been accused of receiving illegal gratification in return for causing Aircel's owner C. Sivasankaran, to sell a 74 percent stake to Maxis.

The request had been made by an Indian court following an application by the country's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who had said that "undue favors" were given following the acquisition. The requests had been sent out to Malaysia, Bermuda, Mauritius and the United Kingdom.

"An illegal gratification of RM328 million (US$107 million) was accepted as a quid pro quo through his brother Kalanithi Maran in the garb of share premium invested in Sun Direct TV by South Asia Entertainment Holdings," CBI allegedly said. South Asia Entertainment Holdings is a fully-owned subsidiary of Astro All Asia Networks.

Maxis had previously stated in October last year that its RM2.5 billion (US$815.8 million) purchase of 74 percent of Aircel from Sivasankaran was on a "willing-buyer, willing seller basis" and also said that Sivasankaran retained 26 percent of Aircel to gain "upside benefits" in the event that Aircel is floated. The Malaysian telecommunications giant added that Sivasankaran only complained to CBI after his claims had been dismissed by international arbitrators earlier this year, more than five years after the deal was sealed on Dec. 30 2005.

In an October report last year, Astro All Asia Networks had also told CBI that its purchase of 20 percent of Sun TV was a legitimate transaction between two long-standing business partners who had dealings since 1996.

Seperately, the Indian Supreme Court had also ruled that the government had issued 2G licenses on a first-come-first-serve basis, and revoked 122 license agreements issued since January 2008, during the tenure of another former telecommunications minister A. Raja, amid fraud allegations in their allocations.

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