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ED grills P Chidambaram for 6 hours over Aircel-Maxis case

Trouble continued to mount  for the former finance minister and senior Congress leader, P. Chidambaram, with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday questioning him again in the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case.

According to sources, Mr Chidambaram’s statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after he appeared before the investigating officer of the case at the Enforcement Directorate’s office here on Friday. The former finance minister was questioned for nearly six hours. ED officials were tight-lipped about the questioning of Mr Chidambaram. While the Central Bureau of Investi-gation (CBI) has filed a charge sheet in this ca-se involving the politician in July, the ED is expected to file its own prosecution complaint within the next fortnight.  The agency had earlier recorded statements of officials who were in the the now-defunct FIPB when this deal took place, and it is understood that Mr Chidambaram would have been confronted with these versions. Some specific queries on the circumstances and procedures adopted by the FIPB, while giving approval to the

Aircel-Maxis deal during his tenure, were put to him earlier. His son Karti has already been questioned by the ED in this case twice.

Chidambaram, after a similar questioning by the ED in this case in June, had said that what he told the agency was already recorded in government documents. He also said that there is no FIR, yet a probe had been initiated. “More than half the time taken up by typing the answers without errors, reading the statement and signing it!,” he had said in his tweet.

Background of the case
The Aircel-Maxis cases pertains to grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to firm M/S Global Communication Holding Services Ltd in 2006 for investment in Aircel. The Supreme Court had on March 12 directed investigating agencies — the CBI and the ED —to complete their probe into the 2G spectrum allocation cases, including the alleged Aircel-Maxis money laundering case, in six months.  The agency had said that the FIPB approval in the Aircel-Maxis FDI case was granted in March 2006 by Mr Chidambaram even though he was competent to accord approval on project proposals only up to Rs 600 crore, and beyond that it required the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

The ED is investigating “the circumstances of the FIPB approval granted (in 2006) 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. However, the approval was not obtained from the CCEA,” the ED had alleged.

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