In a significant development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) earlier today conducted raids at the residences of senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram. The CBI raids were also conducted at multiple premises – Chennai, Gurgaon, Mumbai and Delhi – linked to Chidambaram and his son Karti.
The raids came on a day the Income Tax Department conducted raids on RJD chif Lalu Prasad Yadav’s associates in connection to the Rs 1000 crore Benami land deals. It could be noted that Lalu Prasad’s daughter and Rajya Sabha member Misa Bharti and son-in-law Shailesh Kumar are involved in a dubious land deals in some of the most luxurious enclaves of the union capital.
The CBI raids on P Chidambaram and his son Karti pertain to the dubious foreign investment clearances given during the tenure of P Chidambaram as the finance minister at the previous UPA dispensation.
Recently, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has found that a firm linked to Karti had received Rs 1.16 crore from the companies whose Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearances were done illegally when Chidambaram was the finance minister.
The case relates to the dubious Aircel-Maxis deal. In 2006, Aircel was sold to Maxis – a Malaysian company – in a deal that allegedly violated foreign investments protocol.
The Enforcement Directorate is currently investigating various aspects of the FIPB approval given in the Aircel-Maxis deal case under anti-money laundering laws.
The ED has found that Advantage Strategic – a Chennai-based company – owned by Karti, had received Rs 1.16 crore from companies whose FIPB clearances were done in an illegal manner. A December 2015 raids by the ED and Income Tax (I-T) Department had found that Advantage Strategic had received “consultancy fee” to the tune of Rs 90 Lakh from Peter Mukerjea’s INX Media before getting an FIPB clearance.
The CBI has registered a case regarding alleged irregularities in granting the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media in 2007 when Chidambaram was the Finance Minister. The agency has leveled the charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, taking gratification by corrupt or illegal means and criminal misconduct.
According reports, INX Media had sought the FIPB clearance on March 13, 2007, for permission to issue upto 14.98 equity shares to three non-resident entities – Dunearn, NSR PE and New Veron Pvt Equity Ltd – by way of preferential allotment. The FIPB unit, however, had clearly mentioned that Foreign Direct Investment of Rs 4.62 crore proposed issue at the face value could be allowed and for investment in INX News a separate FIPB approval would be required. The board had recommended the proposal of INX Media for consideration of the Finance Minister but not that of INX News. It has been alleged that the company in violation of the recommendations made investment to the tune of 26 per cent in the capital of INX News and generated more than Rs 305 crore of FDI in INX Media.
Some reports suggests that INX Media had paid money to Karti’s company Advantage Strategic Consulting through several installments and allotted shares to the company and its linked firms. It is alleged that Karti received kickbacks from INX Media when FIPB approval papers for the company were pending with his father, then finance minister P Chidambaram.
In April, the (ED) had issued a show cause notice to Karti and slapped Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 notices for violating currency laws to the tune of Rs 2,262 crore for the dubious investments and sale through Mauritius and Singapore.
Reacting to the CBI raids, anti-corruption crusader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy said Chidambaram indeed gave illegal FIPB clearances during his tenure as the finance minister and used his office to help promote his son Karti’s dubious business interests.
“It was expected because, as finance minister, he has given so many clearances in FIPB, which are all illegal and his son has always benefitted from this,” Swamy said.
“Karti has got 21 illegal bank accounts abroad and he has built many houses in several countries. He has got them financial activities undeclared in 18 countries. So therefore, money laundering has to be there,” he added.