NEW DELHI: Karti Chidambaram, arrested in connection with the INX Media case, was today sent to one-day CBI custody by a Delhi court after the agency claimed his custodial interrogation was needed to unearth the conspiracy over alleged payment of USD one million bribe to him by the media company through foreign entities.
The fresh evidence in the case, which triggered the arrest of Karti, son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, was based on the statement of Indrani Mukerjea, former Director of INX Media (P) Ltd, who recorded it under section 164 of CrPC before a magistrate on February 17.
In the statement under this section, which is like a confessional statement before a judicial magistrate, Indrani has stated that she and her husband Peter Mukerjea had acceded to Karti's demand of one million dollars for allegedly fixing the violations done in the FIPB clearance.
46-year-old Karti, who was arrested this morning at Chennai airport soon after he returned from the United Kingdom, was brought to Delhi and produced before a duty magistrate here.
The CBI sought his custodial interrogation for 15 days but duty magistrate Sumeet Anand granted a day's custody, making it clear that Karti has to be produced before the concerned special judge tomorrow at 2.30 pm.
Duty magistrate is a judge before whom the accused is produced when the concerned judge is not available or when any accused is produced after the regular court hours and in this case, the concerned special judge had left the court premises after around 4.30 pm.
Karti was produced before the duty magistrate at around 4.50 pm.
During the proceedings, CBI prosecutor V K Sharma told the court that "Indrani's statement under section 164 CrPC was recorded before a magistrate on February 17 in which she told the magistrate that in a meeting at a five-star hotel here, she and Peter met Karti and he demanded USD one million.
"The money was later paid by Peter on behalf of INX Media through off-shore entities and it is being investigated," the CBI claimed, adding "this was done to fix the violations done in FIPB clearance".
The prosecutor said Karti was needed to be quizzed to unearth the "total conspiracy" and claimed he was not cooperating in the probe and was repeatedly travelling abroad which "confirmed apprehensions" that "he will flee" from India.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Karti, said it was a "bizzare" case and no grounds for arrest were made out.
"It is a bizzare case at the threshhold. It is not a case of arrest, leave aside police custody or judicial custody," he told the court while opposing the CBI's remand plea.
He also argued that Karti was summoned twice by CBI on August 23 and 28 last year and was interrogated for 22 hours.
The ED had also summoned him in the money laundering case related to INX Media and he had joined the probe on various occasions, including 10 days ago, Sinhgvi said.
He said, "There are no reasons given for the arrest. It is because you (CBI) want to show it to your bosses that you are doing some work. Unlike others, I (Karti) am not 'Hindustan leaver' and instead I am 'Hindustan returner'," he said and claimed that Karti was cooperating with CBI and the court might impose any condition while releasing him from the agency's custody.
"I (Karti) am not a fugitive," Singhvi, assisted by senior advocates Dayan Krishnan and Mohit Mathur, said.
CBI alleged that Karti had not cooperated in the investigation "until compelled to do so by the Supreme Court" and he had "vehemently denied that he or his company had any interaction with INX Media on any matter including FIPB related matter despite evidence to the contrary".
"Thus, Karti Chidambaram needs to be subjected to sustained interrogation for unearthing the total conspiracy hatched in the case and also to find out the details of overseas payments received by him from INX Media as a quid pro quo for influence exercised by him over the public servants to scuttle the punitive action required to be taken against M/s INX Media (P) Ltd for the illegal acts of receiving excess investment than the approved FDI and also for making of downstream investment without the FIPB approval," it said.
The agency claimed that Karti's frequent foreign visits have confirmed the "apprehensions of his tampering with the evidence lying abroad against him and others in the form of secret note received from the Ministry of Finance".
It said that a "secret note" received from the Finance Ministry was also shown in a sealed cover to the apex court and the Madras High Court while objecting to Karti's foreign visits in justification of the look out circular (LoC) issued against him.
CBI said that Karti had gone to the United Kingdom (UK) from June 15 to July 13 last year and again travelled to UK from December 1 to December 10 last year.
Thereafter, Karti again went to the UK and France on February 18 and returned today, it said.
The CBI had lodged an FIR on May 15 last year alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when P Chidambaram was the union finance minister.