CBI books Maran brothers in Aircel-Maxis deal

Besides former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, the CBI has also booked his brother Kalanidhi, Maxis owner T Ananda Krishnan, senior executive Ralph Marshall and three companies Aspro, Maxis and Sun TV in the case on charges of criminal conspiracy under IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act

Chennai/New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday conducted raids at the premises of former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran after registering a case against him in connection with the controversial Aircel-Maxis deal, reports PTI.

The agency has also booked his brother Kalanidhi Maran, Maxis owner T Ananda Krishnan, senior executive Ralph Marshall and three companies Aspro, Maxis and Sun TV in the case on charges of criminal conspiracy under IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act.

After registering the case, the agency carried out searches at the premises of the Maran brothers in Delhi and Chennai.

“The CBI has registered case against Maran brothers, Ralph Marshall and T Ananda Krishnan and three companies under section 120b of IPC read with 13(2) with 13 (1)(d) and also section 7 and 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The case was registered on 9th October. Searches were conducted at Delhi and Chennai,” CBI spokesperson Dharini Mishra said here.

It has been alleged by former Aircel chief C Sivasankaran that Mr Maran as the then telecom minister favoured the Maxis group in the takeover of his company and in return investments were made by the company through Astro network in Sun TV owned by the Maran family.

The CBI, in its recent status report to the Supreme Court, had said that during Mr Maran’s tenure there was ‘deliberate delay’ to provide letter of intent to Mr Sivasankaran.

The agency had said that after Aircel was sold to Maxis investments were made by the Malaysian firm into the family business of the Marans.

Former aides of Mr Maran had reportedly told CBI that the processing of the files of Mr Sivasankaran was delayed allegedly at the direction of the minister, agency sources claimed.

Mr Maran had refuted the allegations.

It was also contended that Mr Marshall held meetings with the telecom minister between 2005 and 2006.

Mr Sivasankaran had alleged that his applications for licences were rejected when Mr Maran was telecom minister in 2006, forcing him to sell his company to Maxis, whose owner is considered to be close to Mr Maran and his brother Kalanidhi, who owns Sun TV.

Later, Mr Maran is alleged to have granted 14 licences to Dishnet Wireless (Aircel) during his tenure as the telecom minister. The allegations have been refuted by Mr Maran.

CBI is looking into financial transactions of Sun TV and Maxis. Besides, it is also looking into various aspects of takeover of Aircel by Maxis group, the sources said.

The probe agency has already registered a preliminary enquiry on issues in second generation (2G) spectrum allocation between 2001 and 2007 and is actively looking into matter.

Following the development, shares of Sun TV Network declined 2.05% to Rs256.10 in noon trade on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

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MFIs want to recast AP loans; ready to halve rates to 15%

The MFIN proposal to the state government also has a provision to reschedule the tenors of loans by MFIs, which are generally given for a short-term. The proposal also involves the lenders collectively calculating the outstandings of a borrower from various MFIs and then offering a repayment plan at 15%

Mumbai: Cash-strapped micro-lenders in Andhra Pradesh are toying with the idea of recasting distressed loans by almost halving interest to 15%, with a view to improve abysmal repayment rates in the country’s largest microfinance market, reports PTI.

“We (MFIs) have offered to recast loans in the plan submitted to the AP government. Under the proposal, we plan to charge an interest rate of 15% on bad loans from 15th October,” Share Microfinance managing director Udaia Kumar told PTI over the phone from Hyderabad.

The repayment rate in the state is as low as below 5%, according to many microfinance institution (MFI) players.

It was alleged earlier that microfinanciers were charging exorbitant interest rates of over 30% before the Andhra government clamped down on the business last October.

The rate was subsequently capped at 24% by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Mr Kumar was referring to a letter written by the industry’s umbrella body, Microfinance Institutions Network (MFIN), to the Andhra government for certain relaxations in a law governing the business.

AP, which accounts for 30% of the MFI business in the country, had come out with a stringent law to regulate operators, following allegations of coercive collection practices resulting in a spate of suicides by harried borrowers.

Emboldened by the legislation, borrowers refused to repay their loans, pushing the industry into a deep crisis.

In this regard, Mr Kumar said Share, which witnesses over 45% of its business from AP, has observed a repayment rate of only 10% over the last few months.

In the wake of these developments, the MFI sector has lost its sheen and bank funds have not been forthcoming in providing funds to companies, in spite of comforting factors like the RBI’s decision to be the sole regulator of the sector.

Mr Kumar said the MFIN proposal to the state government also has a provision to reschedule the tenors of loans by MFIs, which are generally given for a short-term.

The proposal also involves the lenders collectively calculating the outstandings of a borrower from various MFIs and then offering a repayment plan at 15%.

But there are some caveats to this. Under the scheme, an outstanding of under Rs15,000 will not be included for rescheduling, while those between Rs15,000 and Rs30,000 will have to be repaid in two years, Rs30,000-Rs50,000 in three years and over Rs50,000 in four years, he said.

Mr Kumar said the state government is presently ‘reviewing’ the proposal and said he expects a positive response from them.

Umbrella body MFIN’s president and the chairman of the second biggest MFI, Basix, Vijay Mahajan, was not available for comment.
 

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Complete ban on encrypted communications not desirable: DoT

"Banning of encrypted communication is not desirable as long as some solutions exist to get the (data) intercepted in readable format. Therefore, accent should be on regulation of these services in such a manner that security assistance needs and communication security needs are balanced," an expert committee set up by the DoT said in its report

New Delhi: In some relief to BlackBerry, the telecom ministry is understood to have said that a complete ban on encrypted communications is not desirable as long as solutions exist to have the data intercepted in a readable format, reports PTI.

"Banning of encrypted communication is not desirable as long as some solutions exist to get the (data) intercepted in readable format. Therefore, accent should be on regulation of these services in such a manner that security assistance needs and communication security needs are balanced," an expert committee set up by the department of telecom (DoT) said in its report.

Recently, Canada-based Research In Motion (RIM) came up with a solution for real-time interception of its Blackberry Enterprise Service (BES) after seeking several extensions of deadlines for nearly a year.

The government had earlier set 15th August as the deadline for RIM, the maker of Blackberry, to provide the country's security agencies with interception keys to enable real-time tracking of its popular messenger and corporate e-mail services in readable format.

Besides RIM, Nokia is another player that provides a push mail facility to its subscribers.

The solution provided by RIM is being tested by the DoT, which is expected to give its report by the month-end.

The ministry of home affairs (MHA) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) have been writing to the DoT that all types of communications, including encrypted communications, which take place through mobile devices, internet and websites, should be interceptable and made available to security agencies in readable, understandable, printable and audible format.

Earlier, the MHA had also stated that if no solution is found for any encrypted service, those services should be banned or blocked.

The expert committee also said that service providers should take permission from the DoT before launching any enterprise or consumer service that could pose a security threat.

Permission should be accorded or denied within 15 days of receipt of the application, the committee said.

As far as possible, the infrastructure should exist in India, the report stated.

According to the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and the licencing terms and conditions for telecom service providers, companies are required to provide a lawful interception and monitoring solution for any service they provide.

RIM uses powerful encryption to encode email messages as they travel between BlackBerry devices and a computer-the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES)-designed to secure e-mails.

RIM had earlier insisted that the company does not possess any master key to decode the messages, as it is randomly generated on customers' Blackberry smartphones.

The government has extended the deadline several times to get a solution from RIM. It is estimated there are about one million BlackBerry subscribers in India.

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