Karti Chidambaram, son of senior Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, was arrested by the CBI Wednesday in connection with its probe into the INX Media case.
Flown to New Delhi from Chennai airport where he was held shortly after he stepped off a flight from the UK, Karti was produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Sumeet Anand who directed the CBI to present Karti before the sessions court of Sunil Rana at 2.30 pm Thursday.
Explained | The decade-old case of INX Media
Seeking Karti’s custody, CBI counsel V K Sharma handed a remand application which stated: “Karti Chidambaram had not cooperated with the investigation… he also denied that he or his company had any interaction with INX Media including FIPB related matter despite evidence to the contrary. Further, his frequent visits have confirmed apprehensions of his tampering with evidence lying abroad against him in the form of secret note received from Ministry of Finance. Such has been shown in sealed cover to the Supreme Court.”
Opposing the CBI’s application, senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi, who appeared for Karti, said it was a “bizarre” case and no ground for arrest was made out.
“The remand application is based on two premises — that the accused has not co-operated and he is repeatedly travelling abroad. Firstly, this is bizarre because the CBI has interrogated him for 22 hours on August 23, and August 28 last year. After that, he did not receive a single summon… and now the CBI has arrested him,” Singhvi said.
After the court hearing, when a CBI officer tried holding his arms, Karti said: “Don’t touch me… I am going to take my jacket.” As he was led away, he told reporters: “It’s absolutely a political vendetta. I will be vindicated.”
In May 2017, the CBI filed an FIR naming, among others, Karti and INX Media for alleged irregularities in clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to the media group for receiving overseas funds in 2007 when Chidambaram was Union Finance Minister. The CBI alleged that INX Media’s FDI proposal was “deceitful and fallacious” but was still granted approval. Also Read: INX Media case: Chronology of events
The Enforcement Directorate, which too was probing Karti in the case under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), arrested Karti’s chartered accountant Bhaskararaman this February 16.
It was on the ED’s reference that the CBI had registered a case against Karti and INX Media. The ED, which was already investigating a company associated with Karti in connection with the Aircel Maxis deal and FDI inflow into Vasan Healthcare, claimed to have found documents related to the INX Media FDI inflow during searches.
The ED said it had documents which showed Advantage Strategic Consulting, a company that CBI claimed was indirectly controlled by Karti, had been paid Rs 10 lakh as consultancy fee to help it get FIPB approval.
After lodging the FIR, the CBI conducted searches at premises linked to Karti and the residence of Peter Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea of INX Media.
The CBI FIR alleged that INX Media’s FDI inflow had been initially flagged by FIPB for alleged irregularities and a clarification had been sought from the media house. But a company controlled by Karti was brought in for consultancy, the CBI said, and INX Media’s fresh proposal was approved by FIPB “by virtue of influence exercised over them by Karti P Chidambaram”.
By doing this, the CBI alleged, officials “not only ignored the serious illegality on the part of M/s INX Media. but also embarked on showing undue favour to INX Group by abusing their official position”.
In return for the services rendered, the CBI alleged, Karti got a payment of Rs 10 lakh through Advantage Strategic Consulting “which was controlled by him indirectly”. The agency also alleged that it found invoices for Rs 3.5 crore in favour of INX Media raised by companies in which Karti had “sustainable interest” and had “common directors”.
Countering the CBI in court, Singhvi said: “Now the ‘frequent visits’ is a delightful phrase… there are specific court orders which allow him to travel abroad… He is not a Hindustan leaver like others, he is Hindustan returner.” He said the CBI had till date not filed any status report on the investigation. “Where is your (CBI) status report on non-cooperation… none of the FIPB officials have been questioned or summoned till date.”