INX Media Case: Peter and Indrani Mukerjea implicate former finance minister P Chidambaram

New Delhi: The promoter of INX Media Limited Peter and Indrani Mukerjea has named former finance minister P Chidambaram and even told the Enforcement Directorate (ED) sleuths that he had asked them to help out the business of his son Karti Chidambaram during a meeting at North Block.

File image offormer finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram. PTI

File image offormer finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram. PTI

"In their statement before ED, Peter alias Pratim Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea admitted that they had met P Chidambaram in his office in North Block, where Chidambaram told them to help the business of his son Karti, and to make foreign remittances for this purpose. They further admitted to having met Karti Chidambaram in Hotel Hyatt in Delhi, where a demand for illegal gratification of $1 million was made. It was further admitted that Karti Chidambaram suggested the names of Chess Management and Advantage Strategic as alternatives to make payments," the ED documents accessed by Firstpost said.

The note further pointed out that this fact was also stated by Indrani in a statement recorded by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) before a magistrate under section 164 CrPC where she confirmed payment of $700,000 abroad.

ED documents further expose the payoffs that were made in lieu of getting irregular FIPB approval for INX Media.

The documents said: "Four invoices adding up to approximately $700,000 drawn by ASCPL, its Singapore subsidiary, another associate company (Northstar Software Solutions Private Limited) and Geben Trading Limited were recovered from the hard disk of Bhaskaraman (chartered accountant of Chidambaram) that were seized from the office of Karti Chidambaram. Copies of these invoices bearing the signatures of Pratim Mukerjea were also recovered from INX Media Limited."

The investigation agency files containing invoice raised by Geben Trading Limited have claimed that the payments made abroad are still being investigated. The ED note suggests that some amount was paid to a Geben Trading account in Swiss Bank's Geneva branch.

On 13 March 2007, INX Media Private Limited applied for issue of shares representing 46.21 percent of the share capital, and downstream investment to the extent of 26 percent in INX News Private Limited. The FIPB approval for the issue of shares was accorded via letter number FCII:105 (2007)/78 (2007) dated 31 May 2007. However, no approval was given for downstream investment in INX News Private Limited and a separate FIPB approval was required. In the meantime, an investigation by the Income Tax Department revealed that INX Media Private Limited had obtained share capital of Rs 305 crore (by issue of shares at a premium of Rs 862.15 per share) as against the approved foreign inflow of Rs 4.62 crore (by issue of shares at par) and had also made downstream investment to the extent of 26 percent in the capital of INX News Private Limited without FIPB approval.

The ED documents said: "When IT Department brought this to the notice of FIPB section, INX Media Limited was asked to clarify on this issue. At this stage, they approached Karti Chidambaram for regularizing this matter. His company was engaged to handle this issue and on 26th June 2008, INX Media Limited sent a reply to FIPB section. On the same date, an invoice of Rs.10 Lakh plus taxes was raised by ASCPL on INX Media Limited."

"FIPB section sent a reply to the IT Department saying that FIPB approval was for the issue of 46.2% shares regardless of the issue price. At the same time, INX Media Limited was advised to apply afresh for approval of downstream investment in INX News Limited. At this time, 4 invoices were raised by ASCPL and its associate companies for an amount of approximately $700,000 (Rs.3.10 Crore). FIPB approval for downstream investment was later accorded, despite the request of IT Department not to grant approval," the ED documents said.

The ED also recovered digital evidence during its searches in the case including invoices raised on INX Media Limited. On being questioned, representatives of INX Media Limited disclosed to the investigators that INX Media Limited had paid Rs 9.96 lakh to ASCPL through a cheque number 002914 dated 15 July 2008. Although the invoice issued by ASCPL claimed that the service rendered was management consultancy, the ledger extract produced by INX Media Limited showed that payment had been made for "reply towards FIPB notification and clarification".

"The company also produced emails and letters sent to B.Sai Chandravardhan, Vice President, Chess Management Service Private Limited (a company owned by Karti Chidambaram) on the FIPB issue," the agency documents revealed.

The CBI in its FIR has alleged that INX Media had roped in Karti Chidambaram, son of the then finance minister, so as to get the issues resolved/addressed amicably by influencing the public servants of the FIPB Unit of Ministry of Finance by virtue of his relationship with P Chidambaram.

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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2018 22:47:12 IST

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