The Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday questioned former Union finance minister P Chidambaram for nearly four hours in connection with alleged corruption in granting foreign investment clearances to INX Media during his tenure, officials said.
A team of agency officials grilled him on various aspects pertaining to the process of granting the clearances, alleged meetings with INX media promoter Indrani Mukerjea, companies Chess Management and Advantage Strategic etc, sources said.
After questioning him for four hours in the morning, Chidambaram was taken to a special court in Delhi which sent him to CBI custody till Monday.
The agency is likely to continue the questioning after his return from the court, they said.
The team under Deputy SP R Parthasarthy is leading the probe to unearth alleged corruption in the clearance of Rs 305 crore worth of foreign investment in INX Media when Chidambaram was the Union finance minister, the officials said.
Chidambaram, 73, who spent a quiet night at the agency guest house in suite number 5 on the ground floor of the CBI headquarters, was offered breakfast in the morning before questioning began around 10.20 am, the sources said.
The CBI headquarters has been turned into an impregnable fortress with barricading by Delhi Police, prohibiting movement of vehicular traffic towards the building.
A very strong police contingent is guarding the building where Chidambaram is being kept in custody.
The entry of journalists into the building was allowed after intense scrutiny and issuance of security passes.
The glass-paneled media room, where regular briefing happens every evening, was sealed on Thursday as the movement of accused takes place through the adjacent gallery. The briefing venue was changed to CBI canteen.
The officials feared that the media would be present in the room when Chidambaram is brought back from the court on Thursday evening.
It is normal for the agency to put high-security accused in the guest house to ensure proper security and monitoring, the sources said.
On May 15, 2017, the CBI had registered a case regarding alleged irregularities in granting Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearances to INX Media, run by its directors Indrani and Peter Mukerjea in 2007 when Chidambaram was the finance minister.
Besides the Mukerjeas, the CBI has booked Karti Chidambaram, Chess Management Services and Advantage Strategic Consulting Ltd through its director Padma Vishwanathan.
It alleged that the officials by virtue of influence exercised over them by Karti, not only ignored the serious illegality on the part of the INX Media but also deliberately showed undue favours to INX Group by abusing their official position and advised the company to file for fresh clearance.
The former finance minister was only summoned once last year for questioning in the case and he appeared for the questioning. Karti has been questioned a number of times by the agency.
INX Media had sought the FIPB clearances on March 13, 2007, for permission to issue, by way of preferential allotment, up to 14.98 equity shares to three non-resident entities — Dunearn, NSR PE and New Veron Pvt Equity Ltd.
The CBI has alleged that for the services rendered by Karti through his company Chess Management Services consideration in the form of payment were received against invoice raised on INX Media by Advantage Strategic Consulting (P) Limited (ASCPL), according to an FIR.
The FIR filed on source information alleged that Karti was indirectly handling ASCPL.
Invoices for approximately Rs 3.5 crore were also raised in favour of INX Group in the name of other companies in which Karti was having "substantial interests" directly or indirectly, the agency alleged in the FIR.
The CBI had arrested Chidambaram Wednesday night after high-drama with the agency officials scaling the walls to gain entry in his posh residence in tony neighbourhood of the Jor Bagh area.
The action came after the Delhi high court removed protection from his arrest and rejected his anticipatory bail plea.
Unable to get any relief from the Supreme Court, Chidambaram appeared at the Congress office around 8 pm where he read out a brief press statement.
After that, he reached his residence with his party colleagues and lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi where he was taken into custody by the CBI which arrived there within minutes of his arrival.
He was brought to the CBI headquarters at around 10 Wednesday night.
After a thorough medical check-up by a doctor from the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, he was taken to the room where he spent a quiet night, the officials said.
Mostly, they said, he remained silent except answering a few queries as and when questioned by the CBI officers.
Chidambaram has strongly denied the allegations, saying the payments were for consultancy and his son was in no way associated with that company.