Founded by entrepreneur C Sivasankaran, Aircel is an Indian network operator, while Malaysian communications service provider Maxis Berhad is owned by Ananda Krishnan, a Malaysian citizen of the Sri Lankan Tamil descent.
In 2006, Maxis had taken over Aircel by acquiring a 74% stake. The Aircel-Maxis deal had come under the scanner in 2011 when Aircel owner C Sivasankaran lodged a complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) alleging he had been pressured to sell his stake to Maxis. Sivasankaran also alleged that former Union minister Dayanidhi and his industrialist brother Kalanithi received kickbacks in the form of Maxis group’s investments (through the Astro network) in Sun TV Network, which is owned by the Maran family.
On October 10, the CBI registered a case. The following year, the Enforcement Directorate registered a money-laundering case against the Maran brothers for allegedly receiving illegal compensation of about Rs 5.5 billion in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
What was Chidambaram's alleged role in Aircel-Maxis deal scam?
BJP leader and advocate Subramanian Swamy had alleged that a company controlled by Karti Chidambaram, the son of former finance minister P Chidambaram, had in 2006 received a 5 per cent stake in Aircel in return for getting Maxis to pay Rs 40 billion for 74 per cent shares of Aircel.
According to Swamy, Chidambaram withheld Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance of the deal until his son received the five-per cent share in Sivasankaran's company.
"The dubious transactions show that P Chidambaram as a finance minister ensured that the FIPB would clear the Aircel-Maxis deal only if the company controlled by his son Karti P Chidambaram gets a stake in Aircel Televenture Ltd as his share of the booty from Maxis," alleged Swamy.
The BJP (then in the Opposition), raised the issue several times in Parliament and demanded Chidambaram's resignation. Chidambaram, however, denied the allegations.
In July 2018, CBI named P Chidambaram and his son as accused in its supplementary charge sheet. The charge sheet named 16 other co-accused, including former finance secretaries Ashok Chawla, Ashok Jha, and former Aircel CEO V Srinivasanand, besides Maxis owners T Ananda Krishnan and Ralph Marshal.
On May 30 and July 23, 2019, Chidambaram sought anticipatory bail in the case from Delhi High Court.