The Maran Conundrum: Stock Options & Political Chutzpah!
The Ministry of Home Affairs has taken defiant stand to ‘not issue’ security clearance to Kalanithin Maran-owned Sun Television Network and Kal Cables, even after a fervent appeal from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting including the legal opinion of the Attorney General of India. GoaChronicle.com exposes the truth behind ‘The Maran Conundrum’
The Sun Television Network promoters Kalanithi Maran and his brother – former Union Minister in the UPA government Dayanidhi Maran have criminal cases pending against them:
• Maran brothers are facing a CBI probe over alleged allotment of 300 high-speed BSNL telephone lines to the residence of former Communications and Information Technology Minister Dayanidhi Maran in Chennai which were extended to his brother’s channel.
• Criminal probes against Sun TV Network and its owner Kalanithi Maran comprise of CBI’s Aircel-Maxis case: The Aircel-Maxis deal came under the scanner after Aircel owner C. Sivasankaran lodged a complaint with the CBI in April-May 2011 alleging that he was forced to sell his stake to Maxis owned by Malaysian Tycoon T Ananda Krishnan and Saudi Telecom.
• Enforcement Directorate case of money laundering: The ED is conducting an investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, based on CBI findings that the former Telecom Minister had allegedly received illegal gratification for the said sum from Maxis.
I & B Conundrum on Maran
In August 20, 2014, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) cancelled the permit granted by the UPA government in 2012 to the Maran family-owned Kal Cables to run its cable network. The reason given by the ministry was that it had not obtained security clearance from the Home Ministry. Kal Cables, which distributes Sun TV network channels, had been operating since April 2003.
However, on the FM radio channels owned by Kalanithi Maran, in January 2015, I & B Ministry under Union Minister Arun Jaitley wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs under Union Minister Rajnath Singh.
“FM Radio Phase -3 auctions are scheduled during the current financial year. The Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) is likely to be issued shortly.
It is expected that large number of companies may apply for FM Radio Phase -3 auctions. As per policy, Grant of Permission Agreement (GOPA) shall be signed for a 15-year term with the successful bidders, only receipt of security clearance from MHA. The Ministry of I&B proposes to seek security clearance of MHA only for the successful bidders of FM Phase 3 auctions. You are requested to kindly give your assent for the same.
Also the FM Phase 3 policy, besides allocating FM radio channels to new entrants, has a provision for existing FM licensees to migrate to FM Phase 3 from another 15-year term. Licenses of 37 FM broadcasting existing companies, who are running 243 FM Radio channels in the country, shall start expiring from 1st April 2015 onwards. I am enclosing a list of these 37 companies having details about them.
As the migration of existing operators shall be permitted subject to getting security clearance and these operators are likely to bid for new channels in Phase-3 therefore it is requested MHA may initiate process of security clearance of 37 existing operators to facilitate early migration so as to ensure that a decision on their security clearance is available within the timeline of migration.”
On the list 37 existing operators the I&B Ministry in Serial Number 13 and 35 includes FM companies owned and operated by Kalanithi Maran, one being Kal Radio Ltd.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had denied security clearance to the Sun Television Network owned – 40 FM radio stations, prompting Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to write to the MHA in January 2015.
MHA in June, 2015 made it clear through its Home Secretary L.C. Goyal that it will not give security clearance to the Maran-owned Sun TV-owned FM channels, alleging that many rules were violated by the promoters. MHA had told media that their stand is clear and there is no provision under the law for granting security clearance to Sun TV-owned FM channels.
Union Home Secretary L C Goyal, also introduced new guidelines to the policy which made self-declaration of companies of the already listed 14 parameters which include cases like money laundering, links with terror groups, major financial frauds, links with external intelligence agencies and murder mandatory for security clearance.
Home Secretary L.C. Goyal opted for Voluntary Retiring from Services (VRS) on August 31, 2015 as stated in a DoPT Order. Sources in the MHA opine that Goyal had been at the helm of the decision by the Home Ministry to deny security clearance to the Sun Network for its FM and TV channels – a decision that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wanted the Home Ministry to review but Goyal had refused to change his stance.
In April, 2015 Enforcement Directorate attached assets estimated at Rs. 742.58 crore held by former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi Maran and wife Kaveri Kalanithi in the Aircel-Maxis deal case. The Supreme Court on August 21st, 2015 stayed the Enforcement Directorate’s attachment proceedings before the Adjudicating Authority under the money laundering law against Sun TV assets in connection with the Aircel-Maxis case. Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, however, said the provisional attachment order issued by the ED would stay alive even if the 180-day period for confirming the attachment order was over.
The Madras High Court had on August 10th, 2015, cancelled Maran’s interim anticipatory bail and directed him to surrender before CBI in three days, holding that “prima facie” Maran had “misused” his office by obtaining phone connections illegally and the charges against him were backed by material.
On August 12th, the Apex Court of India stayed Madras High Court order till September 14th, 2015 asking CBI to respond to Maran’s challenge in two weeks.
The Supreme Court on September 14th, 2015 extended the stay on a Madras High Court Order cancelling the bail of former telecom minister and DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran in the alleged telephone exchange case. A bench of Justice TS Thakur and C Nagappan also granted two weeks to Maran to file a rejoinder to CBI’s reply.
CBI wants to interrogate former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran in custody to unearth the “larger conspiracy” behind the illegal telephone network that was installed at his residence when he held the ministerial post and to ensure he doesn’t “intimidate witnesses”. According to the CBI, BSNL officials from the Chennai office, between 2004 and 2007, installed 727 telephone lines and two broadband connections at Maran’s home under the service category; no bills were raised for the period.The connections were allegedly used by the Sun TV network, owned by his older brother Kalanithi.
Notice Inviting Application (NIA) Conundrum
Here is the ten point explanation of the Notice Inviting Application guidelines. While Sun TV and its promoters are resorting to shelter under Clause 3.1 and 3.2 in Court, it is Clause 3.8 that CBI and MHA is denying their security clearance:
- The tender process is a composite process having various stages; you cannot go to next stage with clearing the earlier stage.
- The process of elimination of persons held to be unfit is under two stages.
- In the first stage those applicants which are controlled by persons who are convicted of specified offenses are eliminated from the very beginning, one such offense is money laundering, it means that he who is convicted is barred from participating in the tender process itself. In the present case this clause is not applicable and because of that respondents were allowed to go to the next stage, this is in 3.1 and 3.2 of Notice Inviting Application (NIA).
- The next stage is clearance from security angle (Ministry of Home Affairs), this requires that even if a person is not convicted of specified offenses like money-laundering etc, still he has to have the security clearance, this means that a non-convict may also be debarred from participating in tender process, if he is not clear from security angle, this is clause 3.8 of NIA.
- The difference between clause 3.2 and 3.8 is that while those afflicted with clause 3.2 cannot improve but those afflicted with clause 3.8 can improve later if there is change in their security status depending upon facts of the case.
- The persons who need to be security cleared is specified and that earlier included companies/firms and Directors/Key executives of the applicant, but this has been changed by the government w.e.f. 16.01.2015. In addition to earlier categories, now any person including firms/companies/entities who have 10 per cent or more shares of applicant is required to be security cleared.
- Kalanithi Maran is Director as well as owner of 75 per cent shares of Applicant Company and therefore he needs to be security cleared, besides, he is the key executive taking all important decisions on behalf of the applicant company, hence he has to be security cleared.
- Further, the requirement of clause 3.8 is not statutory requirement but terms of condition between two contracting parties and if applicant does not want to meet the same, it cannot proceed with the contract.
- Clause 3.2 and Clause 3.8 are not interrelated or interdependent nor are they alternates, they are to be read independently and not in conjunction with each other.
- Sun TV Group has accepted all the terms and condition including clause 3.1, 3.2 and clause 3.8 in their pre-bid conference held on 28.01.2015 and now cannot challenge the same merely because in the process of verification they have been found to be unsuitable.
Maxis, Saudi Telecom and Sun TV Conundrum
Here is a detailed business structure of Saudi Telecom and Maxis Berhard Communication acquisition of Aircel Limited.
Saudi Telecom owns 25 per cent in Binariang GSM SDN BHD (Malaysia). Binariang GSM owns 100 per cent of Maxis Communications Berhard. Maxis Communications Berhard owns 74 per cent in Aircel India.
Here is the detailed structure on how Maxis Berhard Communications acquired 99.3 of Aircel Limited right under the watchful eyes of UPA government in 2008, even though 100 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Telecom sector was opened only in 2012
Maxis own 100 per cent of Global Communications Services Holdings Ltd (Mauritius). GCH owns 65 per cent of Aircel Limited and 25.17 per cent of Deccan Digital Works (Reddy & Maxis CEO Sandip Das Directors). Deccan Digital Works owns 35 per cent in Aircel Limited.
Aircel Limited own 100 per cent Aircel. Cellular Ltd and 100 per cent Dishnet Wireless.
GCH also owns 100 per cent of South Asia Communications Pvt Ltd.
In March 2006, the Maxis Group owned T Ananda Krishnan, bought 74 per cent stake in Aircel, through different companies. The company soon got FIPB approval in May 2006.
In November 2006, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) issued to Aircel 14 Letters of Intent, which were all converted into licenses in December 2006. Within three months of this development, Maran’s family owned business (Sun Direct) received substantial investments from the Maxis Group (now owners of Aircel), which took 20 per cent equity of the Maran company. The FIPB approved this investment too on March 2 and 19, 2007. The Maxis group invested a total of Rs 599.01 crore in Sun Direct between December 2007 and December 2009.
In 2007, Malaysia’s Astro Group bought a sizeable chunk of shares at a premium, in the privately-held Maran Group Company, Sun Direct, and South Asia FM Ltd, a subsidiary of the BSE-listed Sun TV Network Limited.
Astro Group channeled its investment through its subsidiary Astro All Asia Networks, which in turn, routed money through the step-down subsidiary, South Asia Entertainment Holdings Ltd. The investment, cleared through the FIPB route, was in fact hailed by all the business dailies.
Astro is a subsidiary of Maxis. Both companies are controlled through its holding company Binariang GSM SDN BHD owned by T Ananda Krishnan – a Malaysian Tycoon of Sri Lankan Tamil origin.
So far due to the failure of the Indian government to exert its diplomatic channels with the Malaysian government to allow for CBI to find a trial between the Mauritius company and Malaysian companies owned by T Ananda Krishnan. This vital piece in the scam is still not been investigated in totality.
On February 1st, 2009, four employees of Sun TV network were arrested by the Sri Lankan army for anti-government propaganda and Pro-LTTE decimation of news. Investigations revealed that Sun TV also operated without a valid license in Sri Lanka. The employees were handed over to the Vavuynia Police.
Similarly in April, 2012, a crew of four Sun TV employees were prevented from reporting on the visit of the Indian delegations after their equipment was impounded by the Customs shortly after arriving at the Bandaranaike International Airport. Authorities in Colombo had informed the Sun TV employees that their organization were Anti-Sri Lanka. The then Permanent Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa expressed to the media that the “Marans should concentrate on seeking a separate Tamil State in Tamil Nadu, because the Tamil population was much larger than Sri Lanka”.
In May 2015, MHA renewed its ban on LTTE for a five-year period. LTTE is branded as a terrorist organization operating in Sri Lanka. Their demand is for a separate state for Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka media have been aggressively reporting on Marans, their alleged relations with LTTE, usage of their media operations to attack the Sri Lanka government and propaganda for LTTE.