P Chidambaram became India’s most high-profile arrest in the INX Media case, but two more cases are being probed for alleged misdoings by the former Union Finance Minister from UPA Government.
After an incredible 24-hour game of catch where authorities couldn’t find P Chidambaram, the former Finance and Home Minister has arrested by the CBI from his residence late evening on the 21st of August 2019.
Apart from INX Media, Chidambaram is being probed in two other cases: Aircel-Maxis deal and Air India procurement deal.
In a dramatized couple of days amid media frenzy, the senior Congress stalwart was denied the anticipatory bail by the Delhi High Court after having approved it for two years. Chidambaram, who himself is a supreme court lawyer, moved the Apex Court to overturn the Delhi HC decision, requesting protection from arrest.
However, the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi listed the anticipatory bail plea for listed for August 23. The vocal Congress leader had been incommunicado since the Deli HC called him a ‘kingpin’ and ‘key conspirator’ in the 305 Crore INX Media case.
Apart from this, Chidambaram is being probed in two other cases – Aircel-Maxis deal and Air India procurement deal. Here’s a brief explanation into the cases which led to the dramatic arrest of a man of the stature of P Chidambaram.
The case in major limelight amounts for the smallest ticket size among the three at Rs. 305 crore. In 2007, Peter Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea (convicted as main accused in Sheena Bora murder case) founded INX Media Pvt Ltd.
The Mukerjea’s approached the now defunct Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for permission to bring funds amounting to 26% of equity from three Mauritius Companies under the FDI route.
The FIR alleges INX Media got downstream investment of 26% equity and raised Rs. 305 crores FDI without the approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).
FIPB approved the proposal of FDI inflow of Rs. 4.62 crores but rejected the proposal of downstream investment of 26% equity share capital of INX Media. However, the FIR filed in the case alleges that INX Media went ahead and deliberately violated the conditions. Later, FIPB and Income Tax department red flagged the deal for violation.
Role of the Chidambarams
According to CBI, when the investigation started against the INX media, the Mukerjea couple turned to Karti Chidambaram, the former finance minister’s son. The Mukerjea’s hired his company Chess Management Services (CMS) in order to get out of this situation. As per the FIR, the company was paid Rs. 10 lakh for their services.
While being investigated, Indrani Mukerjea told the agency that she paid Karti Chidambaram Rs. 3.5 crores as bribe for getting FIPB clearance.
Then the Mukerjea couple applied fresh permission for INX Media to launch its channel. FIPB approved the application this time. This is the basis of the allegation of misdoing against P Chidambaram. In May 2017, CBI registers FIR on INX Media Case alleging the irregularities in FIPB clearance.
While investigating Indrani Mukerjea, she told the investigating agency that she paid Karti Chidambaram Rs. 3.5 crores as bribe for getting this clearance. The amount was paid through vouchers and bills that were raised by different companies including Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd. (a firm indirectly owned by Karti Chidambaram) which have raised most of the invoices. Other names that have surfaced in connection with Karti Chidambaram is Padma Vishwanathan (one of the directors of Advantage Strategic Consulting).
The other two cases
The CBI and ED (Enforcement Directorate) filed a money laundering case against P. Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram. This case is also related to the irregularities in grant of FIPB approval this time to Aircel-Maxis deal which was the violation of FDI rules and regulations.
In 2006, as Finance Minister P. Chidambaram approved Aircel-Marxis deal of Rs. 3500 crores. The CBI and ED said that the finance minister is not authorised to give approval for the investment above Rs. 600 crores.
Such a type of investment needs to be referred to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). This was allegedly not followed. The former finance minister has been accused of misusing his powers to give approvals that benefited his son through kickbacks.
Investing agency reports payments to Karti Chidambaram from Maxis’ Mauritius subsidiary were kickbacks in the form of 5% share in Aircel.
As per the CBI report, the Maxis subsidiary Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd. (Mauritius) paid a sum of Rs. 26 lakh to a company linked to Karti Chidambaram. Another sum of Rs. 90 lakh was paid from the Maxis Group to Chess Management Services in the name of buying a legal compliance software but by the investing agency report these payments are not genuine and are of kickback nature in the form of 5% share in Aircel.
As ropes tighten around the neck of P Chidambaram, there’s a third case that is being probed for alleged misdoings on his behalf. Apart from Aircel-Maxis deal and INX Media deal, the former Finance Minister is under investigation in an Air India purchase case.
The ED has summoned Chidambaram for questioning on August 23 in a case which alleged misdoings in a 111 aircraft procurement deal for Air India under his Finance Ministerial tenure during the UPA II government.
In the original deal, as many as 42 Airbus and 24 Boeing aircrafts were slated to be purchased. However, the final transaction was for 111 aircrafts. Then Finance Minister P Chidambaram chaired the empowered group of ministers which finalised the decision to purchase the aircrafts in 2009.
Then Finance Minister P Chidambaram chaired the empowered group of ministers which finalised the decision to purchase the aircrafts in 2009.
According to the FIR filed in the case, private entities were favoured for the deal. Chidambaram is slated to be questioned to explain the substantial jump in a number of aircrafts purchased.