The past 48 hours have been nothing but dramatic for ex-Finance Minister P Chidambaram. His anticipatory bail plea in connection with the INX Media case, in which he and his son Karti are the accused, was rejected by the Delhi High Court on Tuesday, following which the apex court refused to urgently hear the matter on Wednesday and grant interim protection to him. All of this resulted in the senior Congress leader going incognito from Tuesday evening onward with the CBI and the ED searching high and low for him, but to no avail.
Late on Wednesday evening, the untraceable Chidambaram—flanked by Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Kapil Sibal—appeared at the Congress’s Delhi headquarters to make a statement to members of the press. He pointed out that there was no chargesheet in the INX Media case, as well as the fact that his name was not mentioned in the CBI’s FIR. “Liberty is more important than freedom,” he remarked. “I was aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law … I was pursuing the law.”
Earlier on Wednesday, both the CBI and the ED had issued lookout notices for Chidambaram. Upon learning that he was issuing a statement to the press at the AICC headquarters, a team of about 30 CBI sleuths headed to the location to detain him and take him into custody. However, by the time the team arrived, Chidambaram had left the headquarters and was back at his home in Jor Bagh. CBI officials then rushed to his residence, jumped over his compound wall, and managed to take him in for questioning.
Although there isn’t a chargesheet filed against the Congress leader by either the CBI or the ED—as pointed out by him during the press conference—Newslaundry has learnt from CBI and ED sources that the main offences against the Congress leader revolve around him granting illegal FIPB approvals in several cases as well as the receipt of kickbacks by his son Karti Chidambaram in lieu of these acts. Illegal FIPB approvals were granted by him in several cases, namely, Aircel Maxis, INX Media, Diageo Scotland Ltd., Katara Holdings, Essar Steel Ltd. and Elforge Ltd.
The investigation by the CBI and the ED is currently still ongoing in the above-mentioned cases. Only in the case of Aircel Maxis has the charge sheet as well as the prosecution complaint been filed by both the investigating agencies. However, the investigation under the PMLA Act, in this case, is still continuing—due to the “deliberate withholding of requisite information” by the father-son duo, as mentioned in the ED’s prosecution complaint.
During the course of their investigation, both investigating agencies had also identified several shell companies belonging to Chidambaram and his son. These shell companies had allegedly deposited kickbacks from illegal favours granted by the ex-Union Minister.
Apart from revealing that Chidambaram and his son were the “beneficial owners” of these shell companies, the investigating agencies also found that the shareholders and directors of the main shell company had made a will of transferring the entire shareholding of the said shell company to Chidambaram’s granddaughter. The executor of the will was none other than Karti Chidambaram.
According to sources, the deposits in these shell companies had been used for “meeting personal expenditure” of the father-son duo, as well as for opening and depositing money in more than two dozen foreign bank accounts, as well as for purchasing several immovable properties in countries like Malaysia, U.K, Spain, etc.
Furthermore, the shell company belonging to Karti Chidambaram had also “received huge payments from a company located in the British Virgin Islands”. This company was mentioned in the Panama Papers as well.
Even though several incriminating documents were seized by the CBI and ED during their search of the P Chidambaram and his son’s premises, both the accused “have not cooperated during the investigation” and had “deliberately refused to divulge any information” about their investments in foreign bank accounts as well as immovable properties located abroad.
The father-son duo had obtained anticipatory bail before joining the investigation before CBI and ED and have been on anticipatory bail since the beginning of last year. Sources said that the “non-cooperative attitude” of both the accused in furnishing the requisite information has “delayed completion of the investigation” and that in order to collect the requisite information “which are in personal knowledge of the accused,” the investigating agencies have been forced to adopt a “time-consuming process.”
The Supreme Court will now hear Chidambaram’s bail plea on Friday.