CBI searches premises of Chidambaram, Karti; taxman targets Lalu

NAYANIMA BASU New Delhi | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on May 16, 2017

File photo of former finance minister P Chidambaram (R) with his son Karti Chidambaram.   -  PTI

Opposition calls it ‘political vendetta’

On a day when the government launched its ‘Operation Clean Money’ website, Central agencies carried out search operations directed at two former UPA Ministers — P Chidambaram and Lalu Prasad — as part of investigations into allegations of corruption. Opposition leaders, however, criticised the action as “political vendetta”.

The CBI conducted countrywide searches on premises linked to Karti Chidambaram, the son of former Finance Minister P Chidambaram. The searches — at 14 premises in Chennai, New Delhi, and Gurugram — were in connection with Karti’s alleged role in receiving foreign investments through INX Media.

The firm was owned by media tycoon Peter Mukerjea and his wife Indrani, and had been greenlighted by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board in May 2007, when Chidambaram was Finance Minister.

Meanwhile, income tax officials searched nearly 20 locations in Delhi and Gurugram as part of a probe into land deals in which Lalu Prasad was the alleged beneficiary to the tune of ₹1,000 crore.

‘Day of reckoning’

“Unless there is substantial basis or reason to suspect, these departments (Department of Revenue and CBI) don’t act,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. “Ultimately, the action has to bear some result. People in high positions acquiring assets through shell companies is not a small matter. The day of reckoning has come for many… They will be accountable.”

But the Congress criticised the searches at premises owned by Chidambaram and Karti as part of a BJP design to hound political opponents. Lalu Prasad, on his part, challenged the BJP to fight him politically and not indulge in a “witch-hunt”. The search operations have the potential to escalate the political temperature in the run-up to the Presidential elections.

CBI sources said the searches on Karti’s premises were part of its initial investigations. The agency has registered a criminal case under sections of conspiracy, receipt of illegal gratification to influence of a public servant, cheating and misuse of official position against five individuals and entities.

“(INX Media) made an application in March 2007 to bring 46.2 per cent of its issued equity, which amounted to ₹4.6 crore, from three entities based in Mauritius,” CBI Joint Director Vinit Vinayak told reporters.

The company ownership was later transferred to Direct News Pvt. Ltd., which is involved in real estate, he said. Vinayak said, adding that in the application form, the company had claimed it would make a 26 per cent downstream investment in INX News.

In 2008 the I-T Department received a complaint alleging that though the FIPB approval was granted for ₹.4.6 crore, the company had brought in “hundreds of crores of rupees in violation of the approval,” CBI sources told BusinessLine.

Vinayak said the company did not have approval for the 26 per cent downstream investment. In May 2008, he said, a clarification was also sought. Thereafter, the company sought the services of Chess Management Services Pvt. Ltd., owned by Karti.

However, Chidambaram said the Centre was using its agencies to target him to “silence my voice and to stop me from writing”.

Click here to read the statement of Chidambaram

Published on May 16, 2017
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