Former finance minister P Chidambaram and son Karti were granted protection from arrest by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate in the 2006 Aircel Maxis on Thursday. Special judge OP Saini said the two would be released on Rs 1 lakh bail bond in case any of the two agencies arrested them in this case.
The pre-arrest bail comes as a huge reprieve for the former finance minister who has been in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation for 15 days in the INX Media case and could be arrested by the Enforcement Directorate next. Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail request against arrest by the ED in the INX Media case was turned down by the Supreme Court earlier in the day. “We win some too,” Karti Chidambaram tweeted in response to the court order.
In a 28-page order, judge OP Saini said he had accounted for the time gap between the commission of the alleged offence and the application and “unexplained delay in investigation” in reaching the decision to grant pre-arrest bail. The judge concluded there was no possibility of Chidambaram and his son tampering with evidence, threatening witnesses, fleeing or committing a similar crime again.
“I am satisfied that it is a fit case for grant of anticipatory bail,” Saini ruled.
The Aircel Maxis case refers to a 2006 investment in Indian telco Aircel Ltd by Malaysia’s Maxis Communications which, the CBI says, was in violation of the then prevailing foreign investments laws.
The CBI alleged that P Chidambaram had cleared investment of $800 million (over Rs 3,500 crore) in Aircel Maxis though the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was the competent authority to grant such approval. This was done by wrongly projecting the investment value to be Rs 180 crore.
Investigators alleged that Aircel had paid around Rs 26 lakh to Advantage Strategic Consulting Private (ASCPL) Limited on April 11, 2006. The CBI alleged that ASCPL was controlled by Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram.
Investigators have also alleged that another company of Karti Chidambaram, Chess Management Services Private Limited received $200,000 from Malaysian companies such as Bumi Armada Berhad and Astro All Asia Networks Plc, all connected with Maxis, between 2007 and 2012.