New Delhi, August 21 (The Hindu): Former Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram was detained by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) late on August 21, in the INX Media money laundering case soon after he reached his Jor Bagh in New Delhi following a dramatic appearance at a press conference at AICC headquarters.
The team of about 30 CBI sleuths accompanied by Delhi Police officials reached the residence of Chidambaram and knocked at the doors for a few minutes before scaling the boundary wall to enter the premises. A team of ED officials also reached there.
In fast-paced events, Mr. Chidambaram, who could not be traced by the agencies since August 20 evening and failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court on August 21, appeared at the Congress headquarters at 8 p.m. where he addressed a brief press conference claiming innocence in the INX Media case.
He reached his Jor Bagh residence along with fellow Congress leaders and lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi in the same vehicle.
Within minutes of Chidambaram’s reaching his residence, the CBI sleuths arrived there.
With the apex court deciding to hear only on August 23 Mr. Chidambaram’s petition seeking a stay on the Delhi High Court order that dismissed his anticipatory bail plea, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have got a free hand to arrest the former Union Minister.
Politically Motivated Witch Hunt
It is a politically motivated witch hunt said Karti Chidambaram, son of P.Chidambaram and a Lok Sabha MP said. “This is an attempt at diverting attention from serious issues and theatrics and voyeurism to satisfy some people,” Karti Chidambaram said in Chennai.
In his statement, Chidambaram, said: “I believe that the foundation of a democracy is liberty, most precious article of the constitution is Article 21 that guarantees life and liberty. If I’m asked to choose between life and liberty, I shall unhesitatingly choose liberty.”
“To win freedom we must struggle. To preserve freedom too we must struggle.
“In the INX media case I have not been accused of any offence. Nor is any one else, including any member of my family, been accused of any offence.
“Moreover the FIR recorded by the CBI does not impute to me any wrongdoing.
“Yet there is a widespread impression that grave offences have been committed by and that my son and I have committed that offences. Nothing can be further from the truth. “These are lies spread by pathological liars.
“I was granted interim protection by the High Court.
“I was aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law, on the contrary I was seeking the protection of the law.
“I was accused of running away from justice. On the contrary i was engaged in the pursuit of justice.
“I was working alongside my lawyers the whole of the night preparing the papers for the appeal.
“I will respect law even if applied with an unequal hand by probe agencies. Until Friday and beyond, let’s hope the lamp of liberty will shine bright and illuminate the whole country.
Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Vivek Tankha and Salman Khurshid were present during the meeting. Also present were Ghulam Nabi Azad and K.C. Venugopal.
What Is The INX Media Case?
According to The Wire website: In early 2007, INX Media Pvt Ltd, which was co-founded by Indrani and Peter Mukerjea, approached the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for the issue of equity shares to three non-resident investors under the FDI route.
This money, according to the FIR, was sought for creating and operating a number of television channels. In its application to the FIPB, INX also announced its intention to “make a downstream financial investment to the extent of 26% of the issued and outstanding equity share capital of INX News Private Limited”.
In July 2007, the FIPB board approved INX’s proposal, specifically an FDI/NRI inflow of Rs 4.62 crore, but did not approve the proposed downstream investment. In fact, its note to the FIPB board, the FIPB unit of the finance ministry noted that “downstream investment in INX News Pvt Ltd” would require separate approval.
This is where things went wrong.
The FIR alleges that while the Mukerjeas’ company had officially received permission to raise Rs 4.62 crore in FDI, they actually raised over Rs 300 crores. It also allegedly went ahead with the downstream investment despite not having received approval.
When these violations came to light in early 2008, the “FIPB unit” informed income tax authorities that it was looking into the matter and shot off a letter to INX Media.
Where Did Chidambaram Come Into It?
An FIR filed by the CBI on May 15, 2016 alleges that INX Media then turned to Karti Chidambaram “in order to wriggle out of the situation without any punitive action”.
“Upon receipt of this letter from FIPB unit, INX Media Limited… entered into a criminal conspiracy with Shri Karthi P Chidambaram, son of P Chidambaram, the-then Finance Minister”.
The FIR, crucially, notes that because of Karti Chidambaram’s influence, officers within the finance ministry “ignored the serious illegality on the part of INX Media” and also continued to show “undue favour to the INX Group” by advising them to apply for fresh FIPB approval for the downstream investment even though it had already been made.
The FIR registered by the CBI quotes sources to show how Karti Chidambaram was allegedly paid for his role in influencing the investigation against INX Media. According to the CBI, “for the services rendered by Karthi P Chidambaram to INX Group through Chess Management Services…considerations in the form of payment were received against an invoice raised on INX Media by one Advantage Strategic Consulting (P) Limited (ASCPL).
The former finance minister has alleged that the central government, along with the CBI has targeted him and his son.
“They want to silence my voice and stop me from writing,” he said in a statement.
This is underscored by the strong push by the Gandhi scions against the government’s movement yesterday, with Rahul Gandhi saying that “Modi’s govt is using the ED, CBI & sections of a spineless media to character assassinate Mr Chidambaram.”
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, “He unhesitatingly speaks truth to power and exposes the failures of this government, but the truth is inconvenient to cowards so he is being shamefully hunted down. We stand by him and will continue to fight for the truth no matter what the consequences are.”