New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) — probing money laundering angle in the INX Media case — in all probability will seek custodial interrogation of former finance minister P Chidambaram, who has been sent to judicial custody till 19 September upon the expiration of his CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) custody.
A Delhi court will hear Chidambaram's plea to surrender before the ED on 12 September. It will then be clear whether he will have to go through another round of interrogation and confrontation with witnesses in this case, which ED sleuths claim, will nail the lies of Chidambaram related to Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval.
The ED, awaiting response to Letters Rogatory (LR) to several countries, has recorded the statements of FIPB officials and also gathered documentary evidence to confront Chidambaram. ED documents reviewed by the Firstpost show Chidambaram allegedly approved the minutes of the 128th meeting of FIPB awarding illegal approval for downstream investment knowing fully well that it was in violation of the rules. ED has alleged that in the same meeting, a similar case like INX Media of another corporate house was turned down, and objections were noted on the file.
“This shows that the finance minister (P Chidambaram) had applied his mind with due diligence at the time according approval to the minutes of meeting. Further investigation shows that the finance minister had met the key persons of INX Media and INX News and was aware that on the request of the information and broadcasting minister, the matter was being investigated. However, he approved FDI without raising any questions due to his and his son’s request,” ED documents revealed.
The ED has recorded the statement of D Subbarao, former secretary of Department of Economic Affairs under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) which is admissible in the court. Subbarao told the ED that discrepancy should have been sorted by the FIPB unit in the INX Media case, but it was not done and the violation was deliberately suppressed. Pointing out Chidambaram’s role, ED said Chidambaram knew about the total quantum of FDI intended to be brought into the country.
“Dipak Kumar Singh, then FIPB director has stated (statement to ED) that INX Media Private Limited should have mentioned in their application that they would be issuing shares at premium while bringing in FDI if they had already decided that shares would be issued to foreign investors at premium. PK Bagga, the then officer on special duty, Ministry of Finance, has stated that a standard clause referring to the project cost whether over or up to Rs 600 crores formed a part of the approval letter. Surprisingly, this clause is missing in the approval letter dated 31 May, 2007 in the instant case (INX Media), while it finds mention in other approvals,” ED documents said.
ED has recorded the statement of AK Sharma, then head of legal and regulatory affairs, INX Media, under Section 50 of PMLA, who confirmed that he was given instructions by INX Media promoters, Peter and Indrani Mukerjea to meet Chess Management Services Private Limited (CMSPL) with regard to FIPB clearance. Sharma said he was informed by Indrani that CMSPL belonged to Chidambaram’s son Karti and that they will help out. Sharma further told ED officials that CMSPL was hired by Indrani and Peter due to its association with Karti. Sharma confirmed that in respect of the payment of Rs 10 lakh, the invoice was not raised by CMSPL but by Advantage Strategic Consultancy Private Limited (ASCPL) and he authorised the said payment after Sai Chandravadhan of CMSPL confirmed that ASCPL was also an entity of CMSPL.
“Sharma further confirmed that the payment against bill of ASCPL dated 26 June, 2008 raised in the name of INX Media for Rs. 11.23 lakh was related to FIPB work and was sent by CMSPL and was paid in the instruction of Sai Chandravadhan. He further confirmed four invoices sent by CMSPL, which were handed over to Peter Mukerjea,” ED documents observed, quoting Sharma.
The agency investigating Karti’s investments abroad said that his company, ASCPL, was frequently disposing movable as well as immovable assets such as shares of Vasan Health Care, shares of AGS Health Care, mutual funds, fixed deposits, immovable property purchased in Malaysia, and immovable property purchased from Chaitanya builders. In addition, funds have been systematically invested abroad and even in Karti Chidambaram closed bank accounts in UK to avoid any action by the investigating authorities, according to the agency.
The ED officials said Karti and his close aide S Bhaskaraman were evasive during the questioning and gave vague reply about the records related to ASCPL which was used to launder alleged illicit proceeds. They have sought help from law enforcement authorities abroad through LRs to unearth the layer transactions that was made in lieu of helping INX Media when P Chidambaram was at the helm of affairs in finance ministry.
“The investigation shows that the assets of ASCPL are held in various countries abroad and are held through its subsidiary in Singapore and further stepdown subsidiary in Spain,” the ED said.
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Updated Date: Sep 06, 2019 12:23:46 IST