NEW DELHI: Offshore payments totalling $5 million and a bribe of rS 9.96 lakh to former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti in return for FIPB (Foreign Investments Promotion Board) clearances to INX Media form part of the CBI’s chargesheet filed against them in a Delhi court on Friday.
Former INX Media director Peter Mukerjea, six former bureaucrats in the FIPB, including the then additional secretary of the department of economic affairs in the finance ministry, Sindhushree Khullar, have been named as accused in the case.
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However, the then co-director of INX Media, Indrani Mukerjea, was not on the accused list as she turned approver and has been pardoned.
The accused have been charged with Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (punishment for forgery) of the Indian Penal Code read with Sections 9, 13(2) and 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act. The matter will come up for hearing on October 21.
While in the FIR, the CBI had claimed that the Chidambarams had received a bribe of Rs 3.5 crore, the chargesheet pared it to Rs 9.96 lakh.
The chargesheet claimed Indrani met Chidambaram in March/April 2007 and paid the father-son duo $5 million through the offshore route. Probe into the offshore payment is underway, the agency said, adding letters rotatory have already been sent to Singapore, Mauritius, Bermuda, the UK and Switzerland.
The chargesheet claimed the directors of INX Media entered into a criminal conspiracy with Chidambaram, Karti (director of Chess Management) and former FIPB officers for settling issues without penal action.
Karti then floated a shell company, Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Limited, for receiving illegal payoffs in the guise of consultancies, other fees and payments, the chargesheet added. The CBI arrested Chidambaram in August amid high drama from his Jor Bagh residence. And the chargesheet was filed three days before the 60-day limit to do so.
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CBI opposes PC’s bail plea, calls him flight risk
Opposing the bail plea of former Union minister P Chidambaram, the CBI on Friday told the Supreme Court that the country needed to have a zero-tolerance policy on corruption and that the charge sheet filed against him also included charges amounting to forgery, apart from criminal conspiracy and cheating. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench headed by Justice R Banumathi that the 74-year-old Congress leader posed a flight risk and could also influence a witness.
“He (the witness) is the person who has given his statement under section 164 of the CrPC that he was being influenced and intimidated. We do not wish to disclose his identity even in the charge sheet,” Mehta said adding that Chidambaram tried to influence this person when he was out.
“He is not Indrani or Peter Mukherjea but he is the person who has reasonably known the things and his statement forms part of the charge sheet. Statement of Indrani Mukherjea is also a part of the charge sheet,” Mehta told the bench.
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Mehta said the high court had erred in saying that Chidambaram was not a flight risk as the country was facing a problem where reputed persons accused in financial frauds and economic offences were fleeing India.
Countering Mehta’s submission, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said, “Chidambaram has lost more than 4 kg while in custody and given the onset of winter and fear of dengue, there is no justification to keep him in jail. It is only to humiliate him. If the witness is influenced, it is the duty of the government to protect the witness; he hasn’t influenced anyone.”
Violating the FDI cap
The CBI registered a case in the matter on May 15, 2017, alleging that INX Media had received `403.07 crore as foreign direct investment as against the approved amount of Rs 4.62 crore
During the probe, it was revealed that `40.91 crore was also illegally invested in a sister company without FIPB approval, which was in violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA)