INX Media case: Enforcement Directorate tightens grip on P Chidambaram, son Karti as key aides spill the beans on shady deals

  • The Central probe agency in the last 10 days quizzed several people connected with alleged shell companies and benami properties including S Bhaskaraman, chartered accountant of Karti Chidambaram and his wife Padma Bhasakaraman.

  • Bhaskaraman admitted to being the point person for dealing with various parties on behalf of ACPL, Kriya FMCG and CBN Placement on the advice of Karti.

  • CBN Reddy, another secret keeper, also admitted before the ED that ASCPL Singapore is controlled by Karti with the assistance of Bhaskaraman.

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigators have joined the dots in the INX Media case before moving to grill former finance minister P Chidambaram. The Central probe agency in the last 10 days quizzed several people connected with alleged shell companies and benami properties including S Bhaskaraman, Karti Chidambaram’s chartered accountant and his wife Padma Bhasakaraman.

 INX Media case: Enforcement Directorate tightens grip on P Chidambaram, son Karti as key aides spill the beans on shady deals

File image of P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram. PTI

The husband-wife team and Chidambaram’s former secretary KVK Perumal are directly or indirectly linked with the functioning of several companies including Advantage Strategic Consultancy Private Limited (ASCPL) which ED alleged had received more than Rs 3 crore from INX Media as quid pro quo.

Bhasakaraman, sources in the ED said, revealed that he was handling accounts of as many as 16 companies and debit notes being probed by the ED for circuitous transactions were raised in the direction of Karti. He also admitted that an email was written by him to exclude Karti’s name from an agreement between Manila Mavericks and Advantage Singapore. Bhaskaraman in October 2014 had written to one Sherlyn Calderon to make sure that Karti’s name does not appear in the agreement made between Manila Mavericks and Singapore firm.

Bhaskaraman also told the investigators that Karti had travelled extensively on behalf of ASCPL during introductory meetings with investors and clients abroad. Another Karti’s close associate CBN Reddy was roped in to sign invoices for brokerage and related companies were not doing any other business. According to Bhaskaraman, no separate work was done by CBN Placement and Management Centre, a company under the ED scanner, and in fact, liaison work was done by ASCPL and debit notes were issued through CBN Placement.

Bhaskaraman admitted to being the point person for dealing with various parties on behalf of ACPL, Kriya FMCG and CBN Placement on the Karti's advice.

The suspicious transactions between various parties to conceal the liaison work was layered by Bhaskaraman and he confessed that the commission income from companies under the scanner including SPAN India Private Limited, ASCPL, Kriya FMCG and CBN Placement was split and this decision to divide the commission into numerous layers was collectively taken by Karti, CBN Reddy and Bhaskaraman.

Padma told the investigators that as a director of ASCPL she used to attend a few meetings and sign papers on the direction of her husband. She is learnt to have also spilt the beans about working of ASCPL Chennai and ASCPL Singapore claiming that both the companies were involved in the consultancy business. However exact details and nature of business of these two companies are known to her husband.

ED alleged that at the time of applying for FIPB approval in March 2007, Peter Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea met P Chidambaram and asked for fast approvals to meet their timing deadline and in return the former finance minister asked Peter to help his son Karti in his business in lieu of FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) approval.

The ED further alleged that in quid pro quo 15 transactions in three tranches were made into INX Media beginning 2 November 2007 to 17 October 2008 before the final approval of the downstream investment.  Padma during interrogation said her brother Ravi Vishvanathan was not actively involved with the functioning of ASCPL.

Vishvanathan on the other hand during interrogation by the ED sleuths admitted that decision to incorporate ASCPL was taken by Bhaskaraman and Karti and he was made promoter of the company on the instructions of Karti. Vishvanathan also admitted that initial money for the subscription of the shares of the company was provided to him in cash by none other than Karti.

“On the direction of Karti Chidamabaram, I purchased 1,000 shares of ASCPL and me and my sister Padma signed various documents sent at the instance of Bhaskaraman. Karti Chidambaram was sending clients for ASCPL due to his connections and influence,” Vishvanathan is learnt to have told the ED investigators.

Vishvanathan also confessed that Karti was actual controller and owner of ASCPL because he was taking all the decisions and he and Padma were only getting director’s sitting fees. They had signed the paper of transferring the shares through a will to the family members of P Chidambaram at Chennai on the direction of Bhaskaraman.

Vishvanathan revealed that Karti’s personal assistant Murali was involved and used to give directions for certain transactions. CBN Reddy, another secret keeper, also admitted before the ED that ASCPL Singapore is controlled by Karti with the assistance of Bhaskaraman. Reddy confessed that Karti is the real owner of ASCPL Spain and has a stronghold over the financial transactions and a payment of €20,000 has been made by Pampelonne organisation, France to Chess Global Advisory, Chennai on the instructions of Karti despite no service being rendered to Pampelonne.

Reddy further disclosed to the ED that despite him being a sole proprietor of CBN Placement and Management, all the transactions in the company was carried out by Bhaskaraman on the instruction of Karti. ED which has formally arrested the former finance minister on Wednesday alleged that Chidambaram approved INX Media illegal FIPB case without raising any questions due to his and his son Karti's interests.

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Updated Date: Oct 17, 2019 15:34:37 IST