When Karti Chidambaram, son of the powerful Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram, landed at the Chennai airport from London on Wednesday, he wouldn’t have expected CBI officers waiting for him at the international terminal concourse. Having knocked every court door fearing arrest in the INX media bribery case, and having sought the Madras High Court’s permission for the London trip, he would have perhaps assumed he was suitably insulated. But the CBI swoop caught him unawares.
In its case before a Delhi court where the CBI produced him later in the day, it cited the confessional statement of INX Media directors Peter Mukerjea and wife Indrani, which said they paid Karti around `3 crore for swinging a deal to get post-facto approval for investment of `305 crore foreign funds in INX News, its downstream company. The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) had only permitted INX Media to raise share capital abroad, not make downstream investment, yet money was brazenly funnelled into INX News in 2007.
The Mukerjeas had claimed they struck the deal with Karti after being prodded to do so by his dad and then finance minister P Chidambaram. Their statement is admissible in court as it was recorded before a CBI magistrate under 164 CrPC.
While Karti remains in denial, the CBI claims to have found paperwork for the money trail to Karti’s companies abroad. The clinching piece is a document in INX Group which says Advantage Consulting (P) Ltd was paid `10 lakh towards “Management consultancy charges towards FIPB notification and clarification”. Advantage Consulting is a company indirectly owned by Karti.
Having outfoxed Karti in its latest joust, the CBI cannot afford to let its guard down. It must take the case to its logical conclusion quickly. This case is not really about Karti but about his father Chidambaram. If Karti’s defence sinks, then it will take his dad along and add taint to the UPA. That is the big picture the Congress is worried about.