P Chidambaram's probe not confined to INX Media case only: CBI
CBI stated that its investigation is not confined only to the INX Media case. A shell company, M/s Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Limited owned by Karti Chidambaram received unknown sources of funding.
This was stated by the agency in a detailed charge sheet filed against Chidambaram, Karti and 12 others in the INX Media corruption case. Stating that its investigation is not confined to the INX Media case, the agency said a shell company – M/s Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Limited (ASCPL) – indirectly controlled and owned by Karti Chidambaram received 'substantial questionable funds from various companies which had official work with the Ministry of Finance, including FIPB approvals'.
"In such instances, investigation is underway to unearth possible larger nexus between P Chidambaram in according the approval, and Karti P Chidambaram in receiving illegal gratification as quid-pro-quo", the charge sheet reads.
A special CBI court on Monday took cognisance of CBI’s charge sheet summoning Chidambaram – currently in custodial interrogation of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) – on October 24, the day his custodial interrogation ends. The agency has cited emails exchanged between M/s Chess Management Services (charge sheeted), a company co-founded by Karti Chidambaram and INX Media officials to corroborate that Karti’s company instructed INX Media to make payments to Karti’s shell company (ASCPL) for the services (consultancy) rendered by Chess Management. This was done to “conceal the identity of Karti Chidambaram with the transaction”, CBI has said.
On July 3, 2008, “the day, the course of action” was approved by the officers of FIPB unit, vice-president of Karti’s company (Chess Management) wrote an email to INX Media stating “Did you receive our invoice from Advantage? Please do the needful."
This was further pursued by the vice-president (Sai Chandravadhan) on behalf of Karti through emails dated July 7 and 15, 2008, CBI has said.
The agency has sought to prove that while it was Karti’s co-founded company Chess Management which rendered “consultancy services” to INX Media for responding to FIPB irregularities, Chess Management never raised any invoice. Instead, the shell company (ASCPL), which never rendered any services to INX Media, raised an invoice of Rs 10 lakh in name of INX Media. “The said false invoice was used as a genuine document to give a legitimate colour to the demand of illegal gratification of Rs 10 lakh made by Karti Chidambaram, as advance,” from INX Media, CBI has said.
It has claimed that on the instructions of P Chidambaram, Indrani and her then husband Peter Mukerjea, along with the legal head of INX Media, met Karti Chidambaram in June 2008 at Hotel Hyatt. “During the meeting at the coffee shop at Hotel Hyatt, Karti assured Indrani and Peter that contentious issues of INX Media would be resolved” and Karti demanded “one million dollars” bribe to get FIPB clearance.
Charge sheeting P Chidambaram, CBI has stated that Chidambaram was fully aware of the complaints against INX Media. “Circumstances show that despite all the issues against M/s INX being in his knowledge, he instead of taking a judicious decision, chose to accord the approval in favour of M/s INX News which further establishes that he too was a part of criminal conspiracy and abused his official position along with other co-accused”, reads the charge sheet. As regards the then government officials including former NITI Aayog CEO, Sindhushree Khullar, CBI has said “Downstream investment already made by INX Media was ignored and previous knowledge to this effect was deliberately overlooked”.
Downstream investment is indirect foreign investment by one Indian company into another by way of subscription or acquisition of shares. Elaborating on the meeting between Indrani Mukerjea, Peter Mukerjea and P Chidambaram, CBI has said that the meeting “gets corroboration through records relating to their (Indrani and Peter) stay at Hotel Oberoi, New Delhi, for the relevant period and the taxi bill for travel. The visitor’s log pertaining to the office of the finance minister could not be made available by the concerned authorities, as the same has been weeded out”.