Former union finance and home minister P Chidambaram, who is being interrogated in custody by the Central Bureau of Investigation, has blamed IAS officers for illegal FIPB approvals that have landed him in trouble. The senior Congress leader is accused of granting illegal FIPB approval for foreign investment into six companies including INX Media and Aircel Maxis, and laundering the black money received as kickbacks for the illegal favours granted to the companies.
According to reports, P Chidambaram has said during his interrogation that the decisions to grant FIPB approval to INX Media for foreign investment of ₹307 crore was granted by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) division of the finance ministry. He said that 7-8 IAS officers handled the files related to foreign investments and he as finance minister never had enough time to go through the files. He said that he used to act on their recommendations.
“If there has been any irregularity, they should be knowing about it,” the finance minister in the UPA government said.
This marks a change in his position who has been maintaining that there was nothing wrong in the FIPB approval. His lawyers had argued that the total FDI in INX Media didn’t exceed the maximum limit of 75% even though the company raised far more FDI than what was allowed. According to allegations, Chidambaram and his son had influenced the FIPB members to issue an approval to INX Media for a downstream investment the company had already made in its subsidiary INX News, even though this request was rejected by the board earlier.
Indrani Mukerjea, who was the co-founder of INX-Media, has told the investigators that after the Income Tax department had detected the illegal investments, she had met P Chidambaram and his son Karti to settle the matter. The company was asked to make payments to the foreign bank account of a company controlled by Karti Chidambaram, and after that the fresh approvals were granted to make the illegal investments legal.
Indrani has turned approver into the case, and her version makes it clear that the IAS officers who were members of the FIPB had granted the approval on the influence of P Chidambaram. But now the former finance minister is trying to blame the officers saying he had signed the filed without seeing them.
After this statement by P Chidambaram, the then members of the FIPB are expected to be questioned by the CBI.
Indrani Mukerjea and her husband Peter Mukerjea are facing trial in a case involving the murder of Sheena Bora, her daughter from her earlier marriage. They are currently lodged in jail.
After getting more than 20 bails, P Chidambaram was finally arrested by CBI in a dramatic manner on 21st August, a day after Delhi High court had rejected his anticipatory bail plea. He was arrested at his residence after Supreme Court had refused to grant any interim relief, and a special CBI court had granted CBI the custody of Chidambaram on the next day for 4 days.