Karti Chidambaram was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday on the basis of confessional statements of INX Media Limited directors Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, alleging that they paid $7 lakh to him on the instructions of his father P Chidamabaram, as quid pro quo for a Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance, officials said.
The statements of the Mukerjeas were recorded by the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing the money laundering angle in the case, while the CBI had only recorded Indrani’s statement before a magistrate as per section 164 of the CrPC, they said.
Karti, 46, was arrested by the CBI from the Chennai airport on his return from London in connection with the agency’s probe in the INX Media case.
Both Peter and Indrani had alleged that they met the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram at his North Block office, seeking clearance for foreign investments in their media company after the Income Tax department detected irregularities in these instances, in 20o7.
Chidambaram had then asked them to “help the business of his son and make foreign remittances for the purpose,” the officials said, quoting from the statements of the Mukerjeas.
The couple had also admitted that they subsequently met Karti at a five-star hotel in Delhi, where he allegedly made a demand of $1 million, they said, adding that this was reiterated by Indrani before the magistrate as well.
Indrani, they said, had confirmed in her statement to the CBI and ED that a payment of $7 lakh was made to the bank accounts of overseas firms linked to Karti.
Peter and Indrani, facing trial for allegedly killing their daughter Sheena Bora, had said in their statement that Karti “suggested” to them the names of firms such as Chess Management and Advantage Strategic for the payments.
The Sheena Bora murder case is being probed by the CBI.
INX Media, as part of the alleged quid pro quo (a Latin term, meaning “something for something”), had made a payment of over Rs 9.96 lakh to Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Limited (ASCPL), a firm allegedly controlled by Karti, by a cheque issued on July 15, 2008, the officials said.
While the invoice issued by ASCPL claimed that the service rendered by it to INX Media was management consultancy, the “ledger extract” sent by the latter to the probe agencies showed that the payment was made for replying “towards FIPB notification and clarification”, they added.
The ED, they said, had seized four invoices of $7 lakh, drawn by ASCPL, its Singapore subsidiary, another linked company identified as NorthStar Software Solutions Pvt Ltd and Geben Trading Ltd, after it recently raided the offices of Karti and his chartered accountant, Bhaskararaman.
During the raids, the ED had also recovered “digital evidence” and invoices raised on INX Media Limited, sources said.
They added that ASCPL had also received payments “on behalf” of Karti in other cases, where money was paid in “proximity to approvals given by the ministry of finance”, including from Aircel Televentures Limited for an FIPB approval for the sale of its shares in Aircel Limited to Maxis in March, 2006.
Image: Karti Chidambaram, son of former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, was remanded to 1-day CBI custody. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters