Today P. Chidambaram has achieved another unique distinction. He became the first Finance Minister in India’s history to be grilled by the Enforcement Directorate, all thanks to Subramanian Swamy. The ED is controlled by the Finance Ministry; therefore, it is quite ironic that an agency which he once controlled is now grilling him over alleged corruption charges. However, Chidambaram cannot be arrested until the 10th of July in the Aircel-Maxis case. Knowing that his days were numbered, he sought interim protection from arrest from a special CBI court.
First Finance Minister in this country to appear before ED https://t.co/C2kh8rNCCB
— J Gopikrishnan (@jgopikrishnan70) June 5, 2018
Nonetheless, the Aircel Maxis case seems to be proceeding in the right direction, and he won’t be able to run away from the Enforcement Directorate forever. Both the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are probing the case of alleged money laundering. The case is surrounding the approval granted to Global Communication Holding Services, a subsidiary of Maxis Communications, for investing in Aircel by Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) when Chidambaram was the Union Minister under the UPA-1 government. It has been alleged that P. Chidambaram granted approval to benefit his son Karti Chidambaram. Karti Chidambaram was arrested by CBI in February in connection with the Aircel Maxis case. Currently, Karti is out on bail. Karti is also facing a probe in the INX media case.
Things haven’t exactly been smooth for ex-Home and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram since the Congress’ loss in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. P. Chidambram and his family are facing probes in other corruption cases as well, and Chidambram’s name cropped up in the INX media scam and the AirAsia scam. In the case of the AirAsia scam, it has been alleged that the FIPB headed by P. Chidambaram decided to ignore the objections of the Civil Aviation Ministry officials. Requests for clarifications from DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion) were also brushed off by the FIPB headed by P. Chidambaram. A Republic TV article further alleges that they have gotten hold of information which suggests that a bribe of Rs 50 lakh was given in order to bypass the 5/20 rule. It was mandatory for an airline to have been flying for 5 years and have minimum 20 aircrafts in order to be eligible to operate on international routes, something which AirAsia did not have at that point of time.
According to the Republic TV article, the CBI sources mention that a bribe was paid to government officials at a coffee shop in Mumbai to facilitate this deal. This matter was first raised by BJP MP and senior leader Subramanian Swamy in the Delhi High Court. Subramanian Swamy had alleged that the FIPB clearance granted to AirAsia was illegal according to the rules at that time. Subramanian Swamy wanted P. Chidambaram to be prosecuted for approving an illegal project despite having knowledge of the illegal nature of the deal. He also cited then DIPP in-charge Anand Sharma who had said that rules had been bent to give clearances to AirAsia.
The government looks serious about getting down to the bottom of Chidambaram’s various corruption cases. This shows the seriousness of the Modi government to fight against corruption and black money. With the multitude of cases filed against him and his kin, it is very unlikely that P Chidambaram is going evade punishment At the end of the day, this distinction of being the first Finance Minister to be grilled by the Enforcement Directorate, is something that P Chidambaram will carry forever.