The role played by some senior executives of the Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) in the Aircel-Maxis deal has come under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI).
The CBI is investigating whether SCB was in league with the Maxis group and former IT minister Dayanidhi Maran in forcing C Sivasankaran to sell his company to Maxis.
SCB was appointed by Malaysia-based Maxis as the banker for the deal. Emails exchanged between officials of SCB, Maxis and Aircel (under C Sivasankaran) show that Prahalad Shantigram, managing director, corporate finance and advisory group, SCB, played an important role in the deal.
Emails from Shantigram to Aircel officials, dated November 16, 2005, show that Maxis negotiated for buying 100% equity in Aircel Ltd (AL) and its sister concern Dishnet Wireless Ltd (DWL).
Later, in its result for the quarter ended March 31, 2006, filed with the Bursa Stock Exchange (Malaysia), Maxis informed its shareholders that it had 99.3% economic interest in Aircel through its subsidiaries.
According to foreign direct investment rules, the ceiling for foreign investment in an Indian telecom service provider is 74%.
C Sivasankaran, Aircel's original promoter, has told the CBI that Maran forced him to sell 100% equity to Maxis.
T Ananda Krishnan, a friend and business associate of Maran family owns Maxis.
"Thank you for your note to Mr Marshall (a director in Maxis). We are glad that you have accepted our draft termsheet except for the minor changes to the non-compete clause," Shantigram wrote to Sivasankaran on November 17. "Target at signing - 100% equity of AL (Aircel Ltd) held by ATVL (Aircel Tele Ventures Ltd) and AL holding 100% equity in ACL (Aircel Communications Ltd) and DWL (Dishnet Wireless Ltd)," wrote Shantigram in a revised termsheet to Sivasankaran a day later.
All four firms - AL, ATVL, ACL and DWL - were owned by Sivasankaran.
"We will not comment on this matter," a SCB spokesperson said in an emailed response to a query HT had sent seeking Shantigram's comments. Krishnan did not respond to repeated emails.
The CBI has recorded statements of Sivasankaran and Shantigram.
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 - a company owned and run by Kalanidhi Maran.