Malaysian tycoon embroiled in India 2G scandalBy Asia Sentinel Oct 11, 2011 10:24AM UTC
Ananda Krishnan, friend to top politicians, is charged in telecoms mess, reports Asia Sentinel
Billionaire T. Ananda Krishnan, Malaysia’s richest man, has been ensnared in the giant telecommunications scandal that has wracked India and played a major role in fueling the protest led by Anna Hazare that threatens to bring down the Indian government and change the nature of politics.
Indian investigators have filed charges against the tycoon and a top Krishnan executive, Ralph Marshall, along with former Indian telecommunications minister Dayanidhi Maran and Maran’s brother, Kalanidhi, according to the Press Trust of India, on charges of criminal conspiracy over a controversial deal involving the telecommunications giant Maxis Communications Bhd. and a sister company of Krishnan’s, Aircel.
Few details have been given of the charges. Local media in Kuala Lumpur reported that Krishnan’s headquarters said they were aware of the charges but made no further comment and that the charges would have no effect on the stock. The Press Trust of India reported that the Central Bureau of Investigation had filed charges in connection with the purchase by Maxis of Aircel India in 2006.
A sister company of Aircel invested R6.75 billion (US$137.5 million at current exchange rates) in the Maran family’s Sun TV DTH venture in 2006, according to a report in the Hindustan Times. Under the terms of the agreement, Ananda planned to produce TV channels catering to the Indian market, particularly to the Indian diaspora in the United States and Europe. Krishnan was said to also be planning TV services featuring Web-based interactivity.
The 73-year-old Krishnan was listed by Forbes Magazine as Asia’s second-richest businessman, with US$9.6 billion in assets, behind sugar king Robert Kuok. Born of Sri Lankan parents in relatively modest circumstances in Kuala Lumpur, Krishnan’s association with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is considered to have played a major role in amassing his fortune. His publicly traded gaming company, Tanjong, operates three lotteries in a predominantly Muslim country that frowns on gambling. He especially endeared himself to Mahathir by agreeing to become the anchor tenant in the country’s iconic Petronas Towers, owned by the national energy company.
After Mahathir’s departure from power, Krishnan has continued to remain close to members of the ruling Barisan Nasional, He holds the title of Tan Sri, one of the highest accolades in Malaysia’s odd system of titles.