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CBI to soon question Maxis' Krishnan

July 18, 2011 11:39 IST

A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official said the agency would soon call Malaysian businessman T Ananda Krishnan for questioning. Maxis is part of the business empire of Krishnan, who is expected to soon fly to New Delhi.

Maxis had bought a 74 per cent stake in telecom company Aircel in March 2006.

Questionnaires e-mailed to Maxis Communications Berhad CEO Sandip Das and the company's corporate communications office at Kuala Lumpur remained unanswered.

A few days ago, Stanchart's Prahlad Shantigram had flown in from Singapore for a session with CBI on the deal, announced in December 2005. Stanchart had advised Maxis on the deal. Shantigram was Stanchart's investment banking head based in Mumbai at that time.

At the centre of the probe is a statement by Aircel founder C Sivasankaran, recorded in June, that he was coerced by Dayanidhi Maran — when he was the telecom minister (2004-2007) — to sell out to Maxis. Maxis had paid $ 800 million for the deal.

Specifically, CBI is trying to find out if there was a quid pro quo. Ananda Krishnan and the Maran family have known each for long, it is believed. Aircel, denied a pan-India telecom licence earlier, was able to enter all circles after the Maxis takeover, Sivasankaran told CBI.

The investigations are also focusing on the fact that following the deal, Astro, also a part of Ananda Krishnan's media-telecom empire, announced a $ 160 million investment in Sun Direct for a 20

per cent stake.

Last year, Astro raised its stake in Sun Direct to 35 per cent. Kalanithi Maran, Dayanidhi Maran's brother, is the promoter of the Sun TV network, and Sun Direct is the direct-to-home arm of the group.

Dayanidhi Maran denies that he coerced Sivasankaran to sell Aircel to Maxis and had a vested interest in the deal. He resigned as textile minister earlier this month.

Born in Kuala Lumpur to Tamil parents, Ananda Krishnan is among the 100 wealthiest people in the Forbes list. He has business interests in media, telecom, satellite, and oil and gas.

At present, while Maxis holds 74 per cent in Aircel, Sindya Securities & Investments Pvt Ltd, owned by Suneeta Reddy and her husband P Dwarakanath Reddy, owns the remaining 26 per cent. Suneeta is Apollo group promoter Prathap C Reddy's daughter.

CBI, which is conducting a preliminary inquiry into the Aircel-Maxis deal and the possibility of a criminal conspiracy, will talk to all those who are connected with the deal, say officials.

Both the Maran brothers - Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi - are also likely to be called soon for their version. CBI has told the Supreme Court that it will complete the preliminary inquiry by September 30.

Ruchika Chitravanshi, Nivedita Mookerji in New Delhi
Source: source