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CBI books Karti, names P Chidambaram in cash-for-visa scam

Dalip Singh | | Updated on: May 17, 2022

RAMANATHAPURAM: TAMIL NADU: 03 August 2020: Sivaganga MP Karti Chidambaram. Photo: file photo handout_e_mail / The Hindu | Photo Credit: HANDOUT_E_MAIL

Karti allegedly accepted ₹50 lakh bribe to facilitate visas for 300 Chinese nationals, says CBI FIR

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked Congress MP Karti Chidambaram on charges of illegally obtaining visas for over 250 Chinese nationals when his father, P Chidambaram, was Home Minister in 2011.

Karti is alleged to have received bribes amounting to ₹50 lakh at the behest of Chidambaram to influence foreigners division for illegally allowing re-use of 265 'project visas' for employees of Chinese firm Shandong Electric Power Construction Corp (SEPCO). It was engaged by Talwandi Sabo Power Limited (TSPL) to set up 1,980-MW thermal power plant at Mansa district of Punjab, the CBI FIR stated.

After registering an FIR on May 14 against five persons and unknown government officials, the CBI sleuths carried out searches at ten premises which included offices and residences of Chidambaram, Karti, his close aide S.Bhaskararaman, and private companies that were involved in the shady procurement of travel documents. The searched premises were in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Karnataka, Odisha and Punjab.

"This morning, a CBI team searched my residence at Chennai and my official residence at Delhi. The team showed me a FIR in which I am not named as an accused. The search team found nothing and seized nothing. I may point out that the timing of the search is interesting," Chidambaram tweeted.

His son Karti, too, went on the social media to comment on raids; "I have lost count, how many times has it been? Must be a record". He followed it with the second post; "My office has just updated on the “record” twice in 2015, once in 2017, twice in 2018 & today :) 6!".

The background

According to the CBI, Vikas Makharia, Associate Vice-President of TSPL, approached Chennai-based S Bhaskararaman, a close aide of Karti, seeking help for procuring project visas beyond the maximum permissible limit fixed by the foreigners division of home ministry. The TSPL wanted to increase the number of Chinese nationals since the Mansa power project was running behind schedule. The delay had financial repercussions for the company, leading to a steep hike in penalty and interest on bank loans.

Makharia submitted a request letter on July 30, 2011, to the foreigners division, seeking permission to re-use the project visas already issued to the company. On August 17, same year, Bhaskararaman sought a copy of the letter and Makharia mailed it to him which was forwarded to Karti. "S Bhakararaman, after discussion with P Chidambaram, the then Home Minister, demanded an illegal gratification of ₹50 lakh for ensuring the above said approval," alleged the CBI FIR.

The TSPL, after Makharia agreed to pay the bribe, was granted visa permission by the home ministry through a letter issued on August 30. The bribe of ₹50 lakh was paid by TSPL through Bell Tools Limited of Mumbai, said the CBI. Shushil Morarka (now deceased), the then Director of Bell, raised two false invoices on the TSPL for consultancy services and for out of pocket expenses incurred for re-use of project visas.

The TSPL paid to Bell through cheque and later the bribe amount was paid in cash to Bhaskararaman, the agency said. The three would communicate among themselves through mail on the visa issue, said the CBI. "Vide e-mail dated 02.09.2011, Vikas Makharia conveyed his thanks and attached permission letter dated 30.08.2011 issued by MHA (Foreigners Division) to S Bhaskararaman which was duly forwarded to Karti P Chidambaram," the FIR revealed.

Project visas were introduced in October 2010 as a new type of visa for power and steel sectors only. Detailed guidelines were issued vide circular no; 387 on October 5, 2010, with the approval of former home minister P Chidambaram.

Information, charged the CBI, exists that senior Chidambaram was on the board of Vedanta Group, which owns TSPL, while his son “Karti had taken financial favour” from Sterlite Optical Technologies Limited, Mumbai (a Vedanta Group Company), which had lent Rs. 1.5 Crore in November, 2003 to his company namely Mis Meltraack India Limited, Chennai”. The interest, the CBI added, was waived-off in August 2004 when Chidambaram was sworn as the Union Finance Minister.

Published on May 17, 2022
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