CBI officials scale wall to enter P Chidambaram's Delhi residence, take ex-finance minister into custody amid high drama

  • A team of CBI officials took former finance minister P Chidambaram into custody for questioning

  • CBI sleuths had scaled the boundary wall to enter his residence after the knocks at the door were not answered

  • Chidambaram had gone incommunicado since Tuesday evening after he failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court

  • On Wednesday, he held a press conference at 8 pm at the Congress HQ claiming innocence in the INX media case

  • The Supreme Court will hear his plea for anticipatory bail on Friday

A team of CBI officials took former finance minister P Chidambaram into custody for questioning on Wednesday night amid a high drama that saw officials of the investigative agency scaling the boundary wall of his Delhi residence to enter the premises.

He was taken to the CBI headquarters.

CBI officials had arrived at the ex-finance minister's Jor Bagh residence, minutes after he reached there 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 Jor Bagh residence of Chidambaram and knocked at the doors for a few minutes before scaling the boundary wall of his residence.

A team of ED officials also reached there.

Terming it as an spectacle made for the "media", Chidambaram's son Karti accused the agencies of sensationalising the issue to satisfy their 'voyeuristic pleasure'. He tweeted:

 

Chidambaram holds surpise presser at Congress HQ

In fast-paced events, Chidambaram, who could not be traced by the agencies since Tuesday, appeared at the Congress headquarters at 8 pm where he addressed a brief press conference claiming innocence in the INX Media case.

Rejecting reports of his evading the law, Chidambaram told reporters at the Congress headquarters that the charges against him and his son were "nothing further from truth".

He said he was working with his lawyers through the last night, preparing his papers for his bail application, which was filed before the Supreme Court earlier.

"Respect for law can mean only one thing, wait for Supreme Court justice on Friday," he said, suggesting that the probe agencies should not arrest him until the apex court decides on his bail plea.
"Until Friday and beyond, let's hope the lamp of liberty will shine bright and illuminate the whole country," he said.

"I will respect the law even if applied with an unequal hand by probe agencies," he said reading out from a written statement and flanked by several senior Congress leaders.

He did not take any questions from journalists.

Chidambaram said there is no chargesheet filed by either the CBI or the ED before a competent court. He also said the FIR recorded by the CBI does not impute him of any wrongdoing.

"Yet there is a widespread impression that grave offences have been committed by me and that my son and I have committed that offences. Nothing can be further from the truth. These are lies spread by pathological liars," he said, adding that he was granted interim protection by the high court.

Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, Salman Khurshid and Vivek Tankha were beside Chidambaram at the party headquarters.

"I am aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law. On the contrary, I was seeking the protection of the law. I was aghast that I was accused of running away from justice. On the contrary, I was engaged in the pursuit of justice," Chidambaram said while rejecting allegations that he was evading investigating agencies.

"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," he told reporters.

"To win freedom, we must struggle. To preserve freedom too, we must struggle," he said.

Immediately after reading out his brief statement, Chidambaram left for his Jor Bagh residence along with fellow Congress leaders and lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi in the same vehicle.

A team of CBI officials also arrived at the CBI headquarters but were unable to get hold of the former finance minister.

Within minutes of Chidambaram reaching his residence, the CBI sleuths arrived there and took him into custody amid high drama.

A large number of media persons were also present outside Chidambaram's residence.

A host of Congress leaders expressed solidarity with Chidambaram on Wednesday. While Rahul Gandhi accused the government of playing the politics of character assassination, Priyanka Gandhi alleged he is being "hunted down".

The BJP, however, rejected the Congress' charge of vendetta levelled against the Centre, saying the Union government did not interfere in the investigation and he must face consequences for his deeds.

ED widens probe on money laundering case

The troubles for the 73-year-old Congress leader mounted further on Wednesday with official sources saying the ED's money laundering probe against him has been widened.

The ED suspects the Congress leader's role in granting alleged illegal FIPB clearances to at least four more business deals, apart from INX Media and Aircel-Maxis, and receiving multi-crore kickbacks through multiple shell firms, the sources said.

The ED has also come across evidence where alleged illegal deposits of over Rs 300 crore were made in a single shell firm after purported kickbacks were received by Chidambaram and his son Karti in lieu of granting illegal Foreign Investment Promotion Board(FIPB) and Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) approvals, the sources claimed.

The agency, according to sources, has been seeking court clearance allowing custodial interrogation of the father-son duo given the nature of these complex transactions and kickback deals which have cross-border ramifications. After Chidambaram went incommunicado on Tuesday evening, both the CBI and the ED issued separate Look Out Circular (LOC) against the former finance minister to all land, air and seaports and law enforcement agencies at these facilities to prevent any attempt by him to leave the country.

A team of CBI officials went to Chidambaram's Jor Bagh residence in Delhi on Wednesday morning for the second time in two days looking for him but had to return as he was not present there, officials said. The agency also issued summons to him on Tuesday night to appear before it in 2 hours and pasted a notice on the gate of his home.

SC to hear bail plea on Friday

Earlier on Wednesday, Chidambaram failed to get any reprieve from a possible arrest as the Supreme Court decided to hear only on Friday Chidambaram's petition seeking a stay on the Delhi High Court that dismissed his anticipatory bail plea.

Capping a day of hectic developments in the Supreme Court for a battery of top lawyer-turned politicians from the Congress fighting the case of their party colleague, Registrar (Judicial) informed them that Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has listed the matter for hearing on Friday.

Chidambaram's petition was first mentioned by senior advocate Kapil Sibal in the morning before a bench, comprising Justices NV Ramana, M Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi, which sent it for being placed before the CJI for his consideration to accord it an urgent hearing. When his lawyers did not receive any information on urgent listing, Sibal once again mentioned it before the same bench after it assembled post-lunch.

Sibal, flanked by other senior advocates Salman Khurshid, Vivek Tankha and Indira Jaising, told the bench that the investigating agencies have issued a lookout notice against Chidambaram as if he is going to "run away".

The top court said the defects in the petition had been removed "just now" and it "cannot be listed for hearing today itself". "Without listing of the petition, we cannot hear the matter," said the bench. "Sorry, Mr Sibal. We cannot hear the matter," the bench said when he repeatedly asked for hearing the matter on Wednesday itself.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Aug 21, 2019 23:27:38 IST