ED questions Chidambaram in Aircel-Maxis case

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New Delhi : The Enforcement Directorate (ED) here on Friday questioned former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the Rs 3,200 crore Aircel-Maxis deal case, officials said.

The senior Congress leader appeared before the investigators around 11 a.m. in response to summons issued to him this month. It was the third time the Congress leader joined the probe.

In its probe taken up under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the ED questioned Chidambaram about the circumstances in which he approved the deal during his tenure as the Finance Minister and about the procedures adopted by the now-defunct Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) when the deal was finalised, an ED official said while requesting for anonymity.

The ED recorded Chidambaram's statement under the PMLA. The Aircel-Maxis case pertains to the grant of FIPB clearance to Global Communication Holding Services Ltd in 2006 for investment in Aircel.

The Congress leader was asked similar questions during his interrogation in June too, when he said that what he had told the agency was already recorded in government documents. He also had said that there was no FIR, yet a probe had been initiated.

The Congress leader had also accused the ED last month of a witch-hunt in the case.

The questioning is part of ED's investigation in the case it registered in 2017 against Chidambaram's son Karti after taking cognisance of a 2011 FIR lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Karti has been questioned by the ED in this case twice.

The ED and the CBI are investigating how Karti Chidambaram allegedly managed to get an FIPB clearance in the Aircel-Maxis deal when his father was the Finance Minister in 2006.

The CBI last month had filed a charge sheet against 18 people in the case, naming Chidambaram and his son as accused. The charge sheet alleged that the former Finance Minister had the power to approve foreign investments only up to Rs 600 crore but he cleared the Rs 3,200-crore investment without referring the matter to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

In the charge sheet, the CBI accused him of "misusing his official position" as Finance Minister by approving the investment at his level without sending the file to the CCEA.