CBI Books Dayanidhi Maran in BSNL case

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NEW DELHI: Times of India reported that in more trouble for former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, the CBI has registered an FIR against him and BSNL officials for alleged allotment of over 300 high-speed telephone lines to Maran’s residence in Chennai which were extended to his brother’s television channel.

CBI sources said the FIR was filed after its preliminary enquiry found enough material to proceed with a regular case against Maran and BSNL officials — the then CGM K Bramhanathan and M P Veluswami.

The fresh case comes even as the agency is finalizing its investigations into the Aircel-Maxis deal, in which Maran is an accused.

DayanidhiMaranCBI sources said Maran would be called for questioning soon in the fresh case. Agency officials said they had registered the preliminary inquiry in 2011 which was wrapped up in July.

Sources said 323 telephone lines allegedly in the name of the BSNL general manager connected Maran’s Boat House residence with the Sun TV office through a dedicated underground cable during his tenure as telecom minister. The probe had started in 2011, nearly four years after getting complaints that a ‘virtual’ telephone exchange was allegedly set up at Maran’s residence to facilitating data transfer from Sun TV.

The agency had recommended action to the then telecom secretary in 2007 but the department allegedly did not give its nod in the case, sources said. Finally, the CBI filed a preliminary inquiry in 2011.

Sources said these lines were not ordinary telephone lines but costly ISDN, capable of carrying huge data, thus facilitating faster transmission of TV news and programmes across the globe.

The CBI in its report to the telecom secretary had alleged that these lines were for the use of large commercial enterprises to meet special needs such as video conferencing or transmission of huge volume of digital data for which heavy fee is charged but Sun TV got it for free.

The fresh case against Maran comes at a time when CBI is poised to file a chargesheet against the DMK leader and his brother Kalanithi for allegedly receiving Rs 549 crore for their role in the acquisition of Aircel by Malaysia-based Maxis.

CBI sources said the agency had questioned Dayanidhi in the Aircel-Maxis case and their investigation was almost complete. The probe revealed that illegal gratification was accepted by Dayanidhi through Kalanithi in the garb of premium share investment in family-controlled Sun Direct. The agency also found that as telecom minister, he blocked the legitimate requests of Dishnet DSL, paving the way for the Maxis takeover.

In a status report to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on telecom last year, CBI had said mala fide considerations and “illegal gratification” of Rs 549 crore were behind the “active intervention” of Dayanidhi and Kalanithi in curbing the business interests of Aircel’s former owner C Sivasankaran.

Alleging a Maran-Maxis nexus, CBI had said, “It is prima facie revealed that the active intervention of Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi Maran in restricting business environment of Siva Group, change of ownership to M/s Maxis Communications and undue favours post this change was for mala fide considerations.”

In its report, CBI had said “undue favours” were offered to Maxis even after it took over Aircel and these were part of a plan involving Dayanidhi when he was telecom minister in UPA-1.

“An illegal gratification of Rs 549,96,01,793 was accepted as quid pro quo through his brother Kalanithi Maran in the garb of share premium invested in Sun Direct by South Asia Entertainment Holdings which was a fully owned subsidiary of Astro All Asia Networks,” the CBI said.

The agency said Dayanidhi delayed grant of licences in seven telecom circles to Aircel and other approvals pending before DoT on “frivolous grounds” with the intention of forcing its exit from the telecom business.

Backing Sivasankaran’s allegations that he was arm-twisted into selling Aircel to Maxis, CBI said Dayanidhi “rendered disservice to Dishnet (Aircel) paving the way for Maxis to acquire Aircel from Sivasankaran”.

Pointing to how the attitude of DoT changed once Maxis took over Aircel, CBI said application for issuance of licences and other requests pending for long were acceded to and “undue favour was given to these companies for which alleged illegal gratification was paid by Astro All Asia Networks to Sun Direct of Kalanithi in the garb of purchase of its shares at a premium of Rs 69.57 a share”.

(Times of India, 2 October 2013)

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