Enforcement Directorate Arrests P Chidambaram In INX Media Case
Former finance minister P Chidambaram, who has spent eight weeks in Central Bureau of Investigation and judicial custody in the INX Media corruption case, was on Wednesday arrested by the Enforcement Directorate from Tihar jail in a related money laundering matter.
Shortly after his arrest, the ED filed a plea before special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar seeking a 14-day custodial interrogation of the 74-year-old Congress leader.
The court while issuing a production warrant against Chidambaram in the ED case said it will take up the remand plea on Thursday when his judicial custody expires in the corruption case filed by the CBI.
The court directed the jail authorities to produce Chidambaram at 3 p.m. on Thursday.
CBI sources, meanwhile, said the probe agency is all set to file a charge sheet in the corruption case in which it is likely to name Chidambaram and his son Karti.
The ED's investigating team followed due procedure after judge Kuhar allowed the agency to interrogate Chidambaram in jail and arrest him, if necessary, an agency official said.
A three-member team of investigators, which arrived at the prison at 8:15 a.m., remained in the premises for about two hours during which they briefly questioned Chidambaram after he was placed under arrest.
The arrest was made under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and his statement was also recorded under the same provision of law, an official said.
The Rajya Sabha member has been grilled by the ED in this case many times in the past but it had never arrested Chidambaram as he enjoyed a court-issued order directing the agency not to take any coercive step like arrest.
Sources indicated that Chidambaram will now be put through some fresh evidence, obtained from offshore jurisdictions, and confronted with the statement of the other accused in the case once his full-time questioning begins, if the court grants the ED his custody.
The statements given by the accountant of Karti and others will be put across to him, they said.
It is understood that the ED investigating officer will seek answers from Chidambaram with regard to certain foreign-based assets linked to his family including those attached by it in the name of Karti.
The ED had in October last year attached assets worth Rs 54 crore of Karti in India, the U.K. and Spain, under the PMLA.
The agency is also working to file its first charge sheet or prosecution complaint in the case and it may include Chidambaram's forthcoming statements too.
The ED had filed a criminal case under the PMLA in 2017 to probe alleged irregularities in the grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board approval to the INX Media group.
The INX Media got its FIPB approvals in 2007-08 when Chidambaram was serving as the Union finance minister.
It is alleged that this approval was not legal and agencies have charged Chidambaram with committing corruption and money laundering by taking kickbacks from promoter couple of the media group, Indrani and Peter Mukerjea, through Karti.
Karti and his mother Nalini also visited the Tihar jail premises in the morning.
Talking to reporters outside the jail, Karti reiterated that the investigation in this case was a "political vendetta" and a "charade being played out for the vicarious pleasure of few people."
"I came to meet him (father Chidambaram) as part of my weekly visits...he is in good spirits. Whatever these procedural games are being played are for political theatrics,"he said.
"This is a bogus investigation to continue and keep the former finance minister and the home minister in some sort of custody."
On another legal front, the CBI opposed in the Supreme Court the bail plea of Chidambaram, saying a "strong prima facie" case has been made out against him.
Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the CBI, told a bench headed by Justice R Banumathi that they have "cogent materials" about how Chidambaram had allegedly tried to influence the witnesses.
The solicitor general told the bench that in the past, Chidambaram had tried to pressurise and influence key witnesses in the case.
Chidambaram sought bail from the top court, saying the probe agency wants to keep him in jail to "humiliate him".