Palaniappan Chidambaram, former union finance minister and senior Congress leader is on the run as Supreme Court refused to provide any relief to him in the INX Media bribery case. Previously Delhi High Court dismissed Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail petition and therefore he moved the Apex court to seek relief in the matter. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the investigation agencies involved in Chidambaram’s case in INX Media as well as Aircel Maxis case are searching for him at various places including his home in Jor Bagh, South Delhi.
Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram were under the scanner of the CBI and the ED last year in connection with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to INX Media. The said venture had been co-founded by Indrani Mukerjea and her husband Peter Mukerjea. The alleged irregularities had taken place in 2007 when P. Chidambaram was the Finance Minister under the UPA government. The CBI had registered an FIR into this case on May 15, 2017, against alleged irregularities in the FIPB clearance to INX Media. Indrani led INX Media wanted foreign investments in the company to expand its business of a series of television channels in India. The company approached FIPB to seek approval regarding issuing equity shares to Mauritius based NRI investors through FDI route. FIPB approved FDI investment worth just 4.62 crores but INX Media generated investment worth 305 crore rupees “by issuing shares to foreign investors at a premium of more than Rs 800 per share” between August 2007 and May 2008, as per the FIR in the case.
P Chidambaram who was the then finance minister met with Indrani and agreed to give ‘retrospective approval’ of downstream investment of more than 300 crore rupees in exchange of 5 crore rupees ‘investment’ in his son’s firm. That’s what sealed P Chidambaram’s fate.
The case was unearthed by ED’s Investigating Officer Rajeshwar Singh when he conducted raids at Chidambaram’s home and his son’s firm in connection with Aircel-Maxis probe in December 2014. It has been found that the Chidambaram family has illegal assets in 14 countries. ED has already attached the family’s properties worth 54 crore rupees in Delhi, Ooty, Chennai, London, and Spain in INX Media case.
Chidambaram who has been enjoying interim protection from March 2018 in the INX Media case was named “prima facie the kingpin” by Delhi High Court. In a 24 page judgment the Court said, that it’s a case of money laundering worth hundreds of crores.
“Taking note of huge magnitude of conspiracy angle qua the petitioner, it would be pre mature to jump to a conclusion that the provision of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) would not apply to the instant case, as it cannot be said that the amount involved is below Rs.30 lakhs. Rather money laundering involved in this INX Media scam is Rs.305 crores and Aircel-Maxis scandal is Rs.3,500 crores,” reads the court judgment.
Earlier, Indrani had given a statement before a Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 claiming that Karti Chidambaram had demanded $1 million from her and her husband, co-accused, Peter Mukerjea, who had founded INX Media with her. She had become approver and confessed bribing by Chidambaram and his son. There has been attempt to poison Indrani in the jail which as per the rumormills could have been done by Chidambaram’s henchmen.
Karti Chidambaram was also arrested by the investigation agencies in February 2018. P Chidambaram in the first finance minister of India to face probe in financial irregularity by any investigation agencies. He certainly comes across as a disgrace to the sanctity to the post of finance minister. There could not be anything worse than a country’s finance minister to be involved in a finance related crime. He is also involved in many other illegalities including changing the affidavit in the Ishrat Jahan encounter, creating the myth of saffron terror, Aircel Maxis scam, and 2G scam.