Email exchanges between the original promoter of Aircel, chairman of Maxis and managing director of Standard Chartered Bank raise questions about a possible nexus between Maxis and former communications minister Dayanidhi Maran in the spectrum scam.
During talks for the sale of Aircel by its original promoter C Sivasankaran to T Ananda Krishnan-promoted Maxis, the latter offered to take the 'responsibility' to obtain approvals for pending licences and spectrum.
For 20 months, Aircel could not get telecom ministry nod. In an offer made in November 2005, Maxis also took responsibility of obtaining investment approvals from the Centre.
The offer came a few months after an earlier proposal by Aircel to sell 49% stake to Hutchison in 2004 was denied telecom department nod."Approvals for investment, (is the) responsibility of buyer (Maxis); approvals for pending licences made by AL (Aircel Ltd), ACL (Aircel Communications Limited) or DWL (Dishnet Wireless Limited), (will be the) joint responsibility of buyer and seller," Maxis director Ralph Marshall wrote to Sivasankaran in a November 16, 2005 email.
All the three firms - ACL, AL and DWL - were owned by Sivasankaran. Two days later, Standard Chartered Bank (the banker to the deal) MD Prahalad Shantigram underlined the same points in an email to Sivasankaran, a copy of which was marked to Marshall.
"The buyer (Maxis) will be responsible for applying for investment approvals. The buyer (Maxis) and Aircel Tele Ventures Limited (ATVL), would be jointly responsible for obtaining approvals for pending applications of licences and spectrum," Shantigram wrote in his email.
This, experts said, raises questions about a possible nexus between Maran and Maxis as no buyer takes responsibility of obtaining approvals for pending licences and spectrum. Maxis owner Krishnan is a close friend and business associate of the Maran family.
"I have not seen such a deal in which the buyer is taking responsibility for getting approvals for pending licences, spectrum and investment," said an official of legal firm.
Following the $1.08 billion (then worth Rs 4,813 crore) sale of the firm from Sivasankaran to Krishnan in March 2006, Aircel got all the pending licences within seven months.
Permission from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board came in less than two months of applying. So did the approval form the telecom department.
Further, Aircel's application for licences in seven circles and spectrum that was pending with the ministry for more than 20 months was cleared in seven months, in November 2006.
"We will not comment on this matter," Shantigram said in an emailed response to a query HT had sent seeking his comments.
Krishnan and Maran did not respond to repeated emails.
On February 14, HT first reported how Astro, a Maxis group company, got the Cabinet's nod to invest Rs 675 crore in Sun Direct TV.