By : Raju Vernekar
While Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have tightened noose around former union finance Minister P Chidambaran, in a money laundering case related to “INX Media|, the deposition by Indrani Mukerjea (who has already turned approver) and Peter Mukerjea, has prompted the action against Chidambara.
Now Special CBI Court in Delhi has remanded Chidambaram to CBI custody till 30 August 2019 on plea that the allegations against him in the “INX Media case” are of “serious in nature” for which a “detailed and in-depth investigation is required”.
“INX Media” was floated by former HR consultant and media executive Indrani Mukerjea and media baron and her husband Peter Mukerjea in 2006. In 2007 the company had sought Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB)’ clearance to broadcast a bouquet of channels. As per the CBI, on 30 May 2007,the FIPB approved an FDI of Rs 4.62 crore, but did not allow downstream investment.
However, “INX Media” went ahead, and in violation of the FIPB approval, made a downstream investment in “INX News” and generated Rs 305 crore in foreign investment when the approved amount was Rs 4.62 crore.
In its FIR, CBI said that “INX Media” had approached FIPB on March 13, 2007 seeking permission to issue 14.98 lakh equity shares and 31.22 lakh convertible non-cumulative redeemable preference shares of Rs 10 a piece to three non-resident investors(Mauritius based companies) under the FDI route. These shares represented 46.21 per cent of the issued equity capital of INX media. Subsequently Indrani and peter sold their shares priced at Rs 10 a piece for Rs 810 in a piece in between August 2007 and May 2008. Subsequently in 2010, the Income-Tax (I-T) Department in Mumbai forwarded the case to the ED.
ED registered a case against INX Media for alleged Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations . Several years later, while investigating a company associated with Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram, ED found documents linked to “INX Media” in the computer of Karti’s CA Bhaskarraman. The documents indicated payments made to Karti’s alleged company by INX Media at the time the Union Finance ministry granted it FIPB approval.
As per the CBI, in order to avoid punishment, “INX Media” entered into a ‘criminal conspiracy’ with Karti, knowing that his father was the union finance minister. This led to the Finance Ministry officials ignoring the ‘serious illegalities’ committed by “INX Media”‘by abusing their official position’. Based on the FIR by the CBI, the ED also filed a case against Chidambaram for money laundering.
In the meanwhile, Indrani was arrested in Mumbai in connection with her daughter Sheena Bora’s murder in 2014. Subsequently Peter Mukerjea was also arrested in that case.
ED and CBI recorded statement of Indrani and Peter in 2018 in connection with “INX Media” money laundering case. Both admitted to have raised money far in excess of the limit given by FIPB. They claimed that as per the deal, $ 10 lakh were to be given to Karti. Of these $ 7 lakh were passed on to the subsidiaries of “Advantage Strategic Consultants Private Limited” owned by Karti. On 11 July 2019, Indrani applied to become approver in the case.
ED interrogated Chidambaram on 19 December 2018, 7 January 2019 and 21 January 2019. However he did not cooperate and gave evasive replies.
Last week the Delhi High Court rejected Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail. Then the Supreme Court also dismissed his petition for anticipatory bail in the case lodged by the CBI saying the plea has become “in fructuous” as he was already been arrested. Now the Special CBI Court in Delhi has remanded Chidambaram to CBI custody till 30 August 2019.
Karti who was arrested by CBI in February last year, was granted bail by Delhi High Court, and is now the Congress Lok Sabha MP from Sivaganga (South Tamil Nadu). Indrani and Peter Mukerjea, are currently in Arthur Road jail in Mumbai in connection with the Sheena Bora murder case.
By : Raju Vernekar