New Delhi, 22 August: P. Chidambaram’s nemesis Indrani Mukerjea a convicted criminal, is now proving to be a pain in the neck for him. She has been convicted for the murder of her own daughter in 2012, who she presented to the world as her younger sister. Since 2015, Indrani is doing time in jail along with her husband, the UK born Peter Mukerjea.
Both Indrani and Peter had started INX media and the company has been embroiled in controversies for financial irregularities practically right from the start.
How has this been connected to P. Chidambaram? Well P. Chidambaram was the finance minister in the relevant years and Indrani and Peter, as per Indirani’s claims, met P. Chidambaram in relation to financial dealings of INX media as they planned to issue shares and raise capital. It is their meetings with P. Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram which have now come back to haunt the Chidambarams.
As one can imagine, Indrani and Peter do not have much to lose, already doing time in prison, but Chidambarams have a lot to lose.
Indrani and her husband Peter Mukerjea, who owned INX Media had claimed in their statement to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that when they met P Chidambaram (then a finance minister) in his North Block office in 2006, he asked them to meet his son – Karti – and suggested that they help him in his business.
Indrani Mukerjea’s statement is a key evidence against P Chidambaram in the CBI and ED probes.
She had recorded in her statement on February 17, 2018, now part of court documents, that Karti had asked them (Mukerjeas) for a bribe of $1 million when they met at Hyatt hotel in Delhi.
They worked out a plan according to which Mukerjeas engaged Karti’s company Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL). As part of the alleged quid pro quo, ASCPL and its associated companies around this time raised four invoices for $700,000 (Rs 3.10 crore) on INX Media and were reimbursed. Soon, FIPB gave its approval to fix the irregularities.
According to a CBI official who did not wish to be named, in March 2007, INX Media breached the condition on which it had been allowed by FIPB (foreign investment promotion board) to raise 46% equity through issue of shares. Against the permission to raise Rs 4.62 crore by issuing shares at face value, the company got in Rs 305 crore by issuing shares at a premium. In addition, it also bypassed FIPB to make 26% downstream investment in INX News Private Limited.
Karti was earlier arrested in the case in February 2018.
During his questioning last year, P Chidambaram was confronted with the documents of the finance ministry and Indrani’s statement but he was not cooperating, said the officer cited above.
P Chidambaram arrested
Although Chidambaram’s team fought very hard to get a pre-arrest bail and ran from pillar to post, but refusing the relief, the high court cited urgent issues and important questions needing answers in refusing the relief sought by him.
Once he was refused relief by the Delhi High Court, Chidambaram’s friends and lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi knocked at the doors of the Supreme Court urgently list and hear the matter, but without much luck.
Once the writing was on the wall, Chidambaram attended Congress HQ and made a statement of his innocence and led the media and authorities to follow him and he was arrested shortly thereafter by the CBI sleuths.
Post his arrest, he spent a quiet night in the CBI guest house on the ground floor of the agency headquarters after his dramatic arrest from his posh residence in the INX media corruption case, officials said on Thursday. Chidambaram, 73, was kept in the suite 5 of the guest house, they said.
It is normal for the agency to keep high security arrested accused in the guest house to ensure proper security and monitoring, the officials said.
Chidambaram, accompanied by the members of the investigation team, was brought to the CBI headquarters at around 10 Wednesday, August 21 night, they said.
After a thorough medical check-up by a doctor from the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, he was taken to the room where he spent a quiet night, the officials said.
Mostly, they said, he remained silent except answering a few queries as and when questioned by the CBI officers.
Chidambaram’s custody to CBI has been extended until August 26 when the matter comes back before the court for hearing. Chidambaram’s questioning is being done under the supervision of DySP R Parthasarthy who is leading the probe in the alleged corruption in Rs 305 crore clearance given to INX media when he was the Union finance minister, the officials said.
All along, P Chidambaram has strongly denied the allegations, saying the payments were for consultancy and his son was in no way associated with that company.
Chidambaram gets protection from ED arrest
A Bench of Justice R Banumathi and Justice AS Bopanna granted Chidambaram protection from arrest to the former Finance Minister in the money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate till August 26 when it will take up both CBI and ED cases related to the scam.
“Having regard to the fact that the petitioner (Chidambaram) was also granted interim protection on July 25, 2018, and that the co-accused were also granted bail by the HC, the petitioner is granted interim protection, insofar as the ED case is concerned… till the next date of hearing,” the Bench said in its order.
The order came after hearing senior counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi for Chidambaram and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the CBI.
Chidambaram has challenged the August 20 order of the Delhi HC rejecting his anticipatory bail pleas in ED and CBI cases. He has also filed a third petition challenging the August 22 order of a special court sending him to CBI custody till August 26.
Directing the ED to file its reply to Chidambaram’s petition, the Bench posted the matter for further hearing on Monday. Mehta opposed grant of protection from arrest to Chidambaram in the money laundering case, saying custodial interrogation of the former Finance Minister was necessary for unravelling the truth.
He said Chidambaram could not be arrested in the ED case till Monday as he was already in CBI custody and an accused could be arrested simultaneously by two agencies.
“The ED has collected innumerable documents/evidence to show the money has been transferred from one company to another shell company… Chidambaram amassed 11 properties outside the country and has 17 bank accounts, not only in India but also abroad, and the money was transferred through a web of shell companies,” Mehta said.
Countering the allegations of “political vendetta” levelled by the Congress, the Solicitor General said: “I am saying with a great sense of responsibility that this is a case of money laundering of a monumental magnitude.”
There were several rounds of heated exchange between Mehta on one side and senior advocates Sibal and Singhvi on the other as they interrupted each other frequently. Having completed the first round of interrogation of Chidambram in the INX Media case, the CBI is likely to take him to Mumbai to confront him with Indrani Mukerjea, who turned an approver in the case.
INX: Judicial requests to 5 countries
- ED says it has identified Rs 3.09 cr in payments by Peter Mukerjea to Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL) and linked entities controlled by ex-FM’s son Karti through manipulated debit notes
- Money received by entities was channelled back into ASCPL. The funds were invested. ASCPL bought shares of Vasan Health Care and sold some at Rs 41-crore profit
- Karti purchased tennis club in Spain, cottages in UK and several properties in India and abroad worth Rs 54 cr. Land and tennis club in Barcelona, Spain, are estimated at Rs 15 crore
- Karti’s FDs of Rs 9.23 cr in Indian Overseas Bank’s Nungambakkam branch, Chennai, attached. Another FD of Rs 90 lakh of ASCPL with DCB Bank in Chennai attached too
- The CBI has sent judicial requests to five countries, seeking details of international transactions by companies accused in the media case.