A day after he was arrested in the INX Media case, Karti Chidambaram, son of senior Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, was sent to CBI custody for five days by a Delhi court Thursday.
Karti was produced before special judge Sunil Rana in the afternoon — he had spent the night at the cardiac care unit of Safdarjung Hospital. His parents, P Chidambaram and Nalini Chidambaram, who are both senior advocates, were present in the court room.
His custody was extended until March 6 after Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the CBI, told the court that there were “very shocking evidences” of what Karti had done.
He said Karti was required to be confronted with documents, co-accused and “trail of proceeds of crime” as he was the “ultimate beneficiary” and “prime conspirator” in a money transaction involving huge sums. He rejected the claim that this was a case of “political vendetta”.
“The Metropolitan Magistrate had ordered to medically examine the accused. The accused had no complaints. Despite that, the accused was kept in CCU. Accused was discharged at 8 am Thursday and the interrogation took place for only a limited period of time… The Mukerjeas (Peter and Indrani Mukerjea of INX Media) met the accused in a hotel where one million dollars was demanded,” Mehta said.
“We are not relying on air. We have travel, stay and car rental details. We are corroborating email exchanges. So far, there has been no custodial interrogation. Money was paid and received by Chess Management and Advantage Strategic Consulting which are owned and controlled by the accused… This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Judge Rana said Karti’s presence was “actually needed” to serve “some important and specific purpose” for completion of investigation. “It is true that a general statement by the officer applying for the remand that the accused may be able to give further information should not be accepted. However, in a case where nothing could be extracted during the remand, granting of further police custody remand is necessary,” he said.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was leading Karti’s defence team, said CBI had spent almost 22 hours with Karti in August last year and no fresh summon had been issued thereafter. He said this showed that the CBI had nothing more to ask him.
“They are trying to prejudice the court. What is the test of remand? The agency has to establish non-cooperation. Did you (CBI) test non-cooperation? There is no tampering. The agency says ‘what he did abroad’, but it did not challenge the order of the High Court that allowed him to go abroad,” he said.
“What happened for six months? Kumbhakaran also slept for six months… I (Karti) am ready to be confronted,” Singhvi said. “Agency is saying that FIPB gave approval. FIPB was then headed by D Subbarao (who went on to become RBI Governor) and six secretaries of Government of India. They were supposed to have been manipulated… as if they were puppets,” he said.
Singhvi said senior journalist Vir Sanghvi had complained to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, alleging irregularities in INX Media.
“Thereafter, the complaint was forwarded to Finance Ministry when Karti’s father P Chidambaram was Finance Minister. He cleared the complaint to Ministry of Corporate Affairs after which the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) took over the investigation, and in 2013 presented a report indicting the INX Media… It is preposterous to say that on the one hand P Chidambaram cleared prosecution of INX Media and, on the other hand, he asked the owners of INX Media to help his son’s business,” he said.
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.
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 S Bhaskararaman this February 16 — on Thursday, the court reserved its order on Bhaskararaman’s bail application until March 7.
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 INX Media get FIPB approval.