On 28th Feb., 2018, the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested Karti P. Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P Chidambaram, from Chennai in the alleged payoffs case related to INX Media. He was produced before a court in Delhi which remanded him in CBI custody for a day.
GROUNDS FOR ARREST-
Karti has been arrested based on the “confessional” statement recorded before a magistrate under 164 CrPC of INX Media directors Peter Mukerjea and wife Indrani. In their statements, which are admissible as evidence in the court, the Mukerjeas had claimed to have paid close to $700,000 (Rs 3.10 crore) to Karti through subsidiaries abroad for organizing clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to bring in foreign funds for their TV venture INX Media. The FIPB comes under the finance ministry, the charge of which was then with Karti’s father and senior Congress politician P Chidambaram.
The CBI said the arrest was necessitated after Karti was found “evasive” in his replies when he was questioned twice in August last year at the agency’s headquarters. His statements were contrary to the evidence collected by the CBI+ . The Enforcement Directorate later too, questioned Indrani and Peter who again gave identical statements and corroborated to the payoffs made to Karti associated companies in the INX case.
BACKGROUND OF CASE-
The case pertains to March 2007 when INX Media Pvt Ltd of Mukerjeas applied for FIPB approval for foreign direct investments (FDIs) against 46% equity in their TV venture. The approval was granted by FIPB two months later. However, the Mukerjeas concealed the fact that they had already received 26% FDI in their venture and are not eligible for further investments to the tune of Rs 305 crore. The irregularities were caught by the Income Tax department which pointed out that INX Media had obtained Rs 305 crore by issue of shares as against the “approved” foreign inflow of Rs 4.62 crore and had made downstream investment to the extent of 26% in INX New Pvt Ltd without FIPB approval. At this point, the Mukerjeas approached Karti Chidambaram for “regularizing this matter”, according to the CBI and ED investigation reports. His company Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL) was engaged for the purpose. The ASCPL and its associated companies around this time raised four invoices for $700,000 (Rs 3.10 crore). Soon, FIPB accorded approval for downstream investment by INX Media, a source said. This despite the fact that the I-T department had requested the finance ministry not to grant approval. Based on an ED request, the CBI first registered a case against the INX Media on May 15, 2017 related to the FIPB clearance and the alleged payoffs. The ED and CBI searches have led to the recovery of “digital evidences” which includes the invoices raised by Karti’s ASCPL of July 15, 2008.
In their statements before ED and CBI, both Peter and Indrani admitted that they had met P Chidambaram in his office at North Block where the then finance minister told them “to help the business of his son Karti, and to make foreign remittances for this purpose”.
According to Indrani and Peter, meeting the FM they met his son Karti at Hotel Hyatt in Delhi where the latter demanded $1 million in “illegal gratification” for helping them with their FIPB approval. They further said that Karti suggested the names of his Chess management and Advantage Strategic as ‘alternatives to make payments’. “Indrani Mukerjea confirmed payment of $700,000 abroad,” the source said. Four invoices were raised by the ASCPL amounting to $700,000. The invoices were drawn by ASCPL, its Singapore subsidiary and associated companies—Northstar Software Solutions Pvt Ltd and Geben Trading Ltd. These invoices were recovered from the hard disks of computers S Bhaksararaman, who is also the chartered accountant of Karti Chidambaram. The copies of these invoices were also recovered during the search on INX Media.
Report By: Nikita Goel, Convener, INBA