The CBI and ED, which are probing Karti Chidambaram in the INX Media case, may open more cases against him following discovery of documents and evidence that show a company allegedly associated with him having played a role in getting FIPB approval for some commercial entities, officials said. Karti, son of former finance minister P Chidambaram, is currently in custody of the CBI in the INX Media case.
According to probe by CBI and ED, Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Ltd (ASCPL) — a company the CBI claims is “indirectly controlled” by Karti —received payments from at least two companies at the time of applying for permission with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to bring foreign investment. These companies got the permission days or months after ASCPL either raised invoices to or received money from them against purported consultancy provided to the companies, sources said. Chidambaram was then the finance minister.
“Investigations in these matters are going on. There is prima facie case and a pattern is visible that these companies got permission right after associating with ASCPL. More cases could be opened,” an investigator involved with the case said.
When contacted, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented Karti, told The Indian Express, “We have not heard anything like this. As and when any allegation is made, a befitting reply would be given. There doesn’t appear to be any substance in such allegations. Not a whisper has come about this earlier. There is no material to react to.”
The ED stumbled upon such evidence during its searches at the premises of P Chidambaram and Karti and his alleged companies, officials said, adding that it has corroborated these transactions from the companies that made the payments.
Key among these companies is Katra Holdings. According to the ED probe, ASCPL received payment of Rs 10 lakh from Mauritius-based Katra Holdings on September 1, 2005. The company received FIPB approval for FDI in M/S Mason & Summers Alcobev of Bangalore on October 4, 2005.
According to the ED, which examined employees of Katra Holdings, the director of the company submitted certain documents vide his letter dated November 19, 2016, officials said. In his statement recorded by the ED on November 11, 2016, under PMLA, he stated that Rs 10,44,387 excluding TDS was remitted to ASCPL vide cheque no. 890831 drawn on HDFC Bank dated September 1, 2005. He told ED that this payment was made on the instructions of MGM Manan, shareholder and director of Tamil Nadu Mercantile Bank. No invoice from ASCPL was received, though, he told the ED.
ED officials claimed that the records show that this payment was not made for any legal service provided by ASCPL. Statements recorded under PMLA are admissible as evidence in court.
Another case pointed out by ED officials is that of Diageo Scotland Ltd. According to the ED probe, ASCPL raised an invoice (no. ASCPL/0506/001) on July 1, 2005. The company at that time applied for FIPB approval for FDI, the officials said, adding that it received FIPB approval in 2006. The matter is being further investigated by ED.
The company similarly received Rs 8 lakh from El Forge Ltd, ED officials claimed. It was made for loan approval of Rs 4 crore from SBI Global Factors Ltd.
The ED is already probing the role of ASCPL in the Aircel Maxis case. ASCPL allegedly raised an invoice of Rs 25 lakh on March 29, 2006, on Aircel Televentures Ltd, which obtained FIPB approval for sale of its shares in Aircel Ltd to Maxis on March 20, 2006. ASCPL was finally paid Rs 26 lakh on April 11, 2006, officials claimed.
In the INX case, CBI claimed that Karti took “illegal gratification” through ASCPL to help INX Media get FDI clearance from FIPB.