Aircel Maxis case takes a new turn

The permission granted by the new Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to the CBI to file a chargesheet against the Maran brothers in the Aircel/Maxis case could trigger a legal storm
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

The decision by the new Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to grant permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation ( CBI) to file chargesheet against Maran brothers for forcing businessman C Sivasankaran of Siva Ventures to sell his company, Aircel, to the Malaysian group, Maxis, is expected to trigger off a serious legal battle over the sustainability of this allegation.

CBI Director, Ranjit Sinha, found the evidence against the Maran's inadequate and he was therefore, not convinced about filing a chargesheet. His Director of Prosecution held an opposite view, which led to the agency seeking the opinion of the new Attorney General.  

Interestingly two former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court had found little merit in the allegations levelled by C Sivasankaran, formerly the owner of Aircel Televentures that he was coerced by former Telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran to sell 100 per cent shares of his telecom company to Malaysia’s Maxis. In the opinion of one Chief Justice this allegation “is untenable”. Both the judges also state that this is a civil dispute between the two business houses and does not need a criminal investigation.

The two ex CJI of Supreme Court were giving their opinion sought by the aggrieved party Maxis Communications Berhard. Their view is an endorsement of an order passed by the Singapore International Arbitration Council. Sivasankaran had gone in for arbitration before them where he claimed breach of trust against Maxis for not crystallising 26 percent upside payment. Maxis did not undertake an IPO within the stipulated period that was provided in the Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) due to which Siva was deprived of his upside sharing cost.

The legal opinion of the two ex CJI are part of the letter written by Maxis Chairman Raja Tan Sri Dato Seri Raja Arshad to CBI Director Ranjit Sinha on August 2, 2013.   

The entire CBI case rests on the complaint of Sivasankaran about being “coerced” to sell the company. The opinion of both the former Chief Justices and the interpretation of the order of Singapore International Arbitration Council clearly indicate that Sivasankaran does not give an impression that he was forced to sell his company. Legal opinion of the ex-CJI's shows that the complaint was an “after thought”. Here is why.

Siva was eager to sell his stake in Aircel to whom so ever would have given him the best deal. He made a presentation to Maxis on November 4, 2005. Initially, he was asking for more, but later he agreed to a valuation of $ 800 million, which is based on the valuation of a part of Bharati’s telecom business, which has a pan-India footprint. After one such meeting he wrote to Ralph Marshall of Maxis that it was a pleasure to meet with him and indicated how step-by step the takeover of the company could be facilitated. Surely, someone who had been under duress would not have engaged in such pleasantries.