New Delhi, March 25
Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram’s direction to former INX Media promoters for “helping” business interests of his son is “one of the important steps of the scheme of money laundering” devised by the senior Congress leader, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has alleged in its charge sheet.
The central probe agency claimed that the 75-year-old Congress leader was “very much involved” with his son and MP Karti Chidambaram in the process of money laundering and was “involved” in the working of the companies beneficially owned by the latter, some of which have also been made accused in the case.
The ED claimed it has recovered emails from seized digital devices that disclosed that Karti used to consult his father regarding matters related to a company “beneficially owned” by him in the past—Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL).
A special court here, empowered to try cases under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), had on Wednesday taken cognizance of the ED charge sheet and issued summons to all the 10 accused, including the father-son duo, for April 7.
The court had said there was sufficient material to proceed against the Chidambarams, Karti’s chartered accountant S Bhaskararaman, former CEO of INX Media Pratim or Peter Mukerjea and six firms, including INX Media and INX News.
The senior Chidambaram, while denying all the charges, has said that summoning of the accused was a routine process.
“The mails and averments reveal that P Chidambaram was involved in the working of companies of Karti P Chidambaram. Apart from his son, he was closely in touch with Bhaskararaman who was managing all the affairs of illegal transactions of Karti P Chidambaram,” the ED claimed in the chargesheet.
Bhaskararaman and P Chidambaram were also arrested by the ED in this case earlier and later they were granted bail.
“In fact, the direction to help Karti Chidambaram is one of the important steps of the scheme of money laundering devised by P Chidambaram along with his son and close confidants,” the ED alleged in the charge sheet accessed by PTI.
Describing the “evidences” that claim the senior Chidambaram’s alleged “involvement” in the case, the prosecution complaint said: “People used to approach Karti Chidambaram and his associates for the work to be done through his father P Chidambaram, in lieu of which he used to get illegal gratification in the companies not directly owned by him, but through his close confidants.” “This way he (Karti) was trying to hide his direct link with the illegal gratification received by him. Mails also suggest that Karti P Chidambaram used to consult his father regarding the matters of ASCPL.” “The illegal gratification received was invested in properties abroad by Karti Chidambaram and the mails suggest that he was also consulting his father regarding purchase of properties abroad,” the ED alleged.
This all shows, it added, that P Chidambaram “was very much involved along with Karti Chidambaram in the process of money laundering and showing the proceeds of crime as untainted property.”
Karti Chidambaram (49), a sitting Congress MP from the Sivaganga Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu, told the ED in his statement recorded under the PMLA that as he was the son of P Chidambaram, it was “natural” for him to take up these issues with him.
Talking about the INX Media money laundering case, the ED said Karti got the “illegal gratification” from INX Media Pvt Ltd in the companies “beneficially owned” by him in the past, in lieu of getting FIPB approval for them from the Finance Ministry which was headed by his father.
The Chidambarams have been questioned by the ED multiple times in this case in the past. Karti was also arrested by the CBI in this case in 2018.
The ED stated in its charge sheet that the alleged money laundering instances began with INX Media promoters Peter Mukerjea, his wife Indrani Mukerjea and journalist and the then CEO of INX News Pvt Ltd Vir Sanghvi meeting the then Union finance minister (P Chidambaram) at his office sometime in March, 2007 purportedly for “seeking blessings” of the minister for Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIBP), that is now scrapped, approval for FDI in their media group.
“During the said meeting, P Chidambaram had asked Pratim (Peter) Mukerjea to take care of the business interests of his son Karti Chidambaram and make possible overseas payments.”
“FIPB approval was thereafter accorded. This has been stated by both Pratim Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea in their statements made under the PMLA and Vir Sanghvi and P Chidambaram also accepted this meeting but denied asking any favor,” the ED said.
“…However, INX Media Pvt Ltd, contrary to the approval, received excess FDI without seeking a valid approval from the FIPB unit of the Ministry of Finance, which was a pre-requisite as per the policy guidelines, unilaterally made an indirect foreign investment/downstream investment to the tune of Rs 46.41 crores in INX News Pvt Ltd.,” the ED said.
This FIPB approval, it claimed, was in contravention to the existing law.
“In the year 2008, discrepancies were noticed in the FIPB approval of INX Media Pvt Ltd and Peter Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea again met Karti Chidambaram to sort out the discrepancies in Hyatt Hotel, New Delhi,” the agency alleged.
Karti Chidambaram, it claimed, demanded USD 1 million to sort out the issue using influence his father, who was the Union finance minister then.
“The proceeds of crime generated in this case were laundered by his (P Chidambaram’s) son and other co-conspirators and was invested in immovable and movable properties” and several shell companies were formed for this purpose, the ED claimed. PTI