In a dramatic development in the INX Media case, former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram was arrested by the CBI from Chennai airport on his return from abroad, with the Congress crying “political vendetta” and the government rejecting the charge.
Later in the evening, he was remanded to one-day custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation by a Delhi court.
The arrest of Karti came nine months after the CBI registered a FIR against him on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, accepting gratification by corrupt or illegal means, influencing public servants and criminal misconduct.
After his arrest in Chennai, CBI officials took him to Delhi by afternoon. He was taken to the CBI headquarters and then produced before a duty magistrate.
Karti allegedly received Rs 3.5 crore from the Mumbai-based INX Media, now known as 9X Media, for helping it get Foreign investment Promotion Board clearance in 2007, when it was run by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, both accused in the Sheena Bora murder case.
The FIR does not mention Chidambaram senior, though it said he cleared the FIPB approval for Rs 4.62-crore FDI in the firm at a FIPB meeting on May 18, 2007.
In Delhi, metropolitan magistrate Sumit Anand granted the remand till 12.30 pm on Thursday when a regular CBI court will hear the agency that sought a 15-day remand of Karti for detailed questioning.
The CBI counsel told the duty magistrate that they needed his custodial interrogation since he was not cooperating with the probe and was going abroad frequently.
Rejecting the CBI claim, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi said both charges against his client were false. He said Karti appeared before the CBI and Enforcement Directorate for 30-40 hours and cooperated.
Singhvi said after August 28 last year, the CBI never issued summonses and whenever he went abroad he took court permission. He also rejected the charge of possible tampering with the evidence by Karti, saying this was a 10-year-old case based on documents and there was no question of tampering.
Describing the arrest as “malafide”, Singhvi jocularly remarked that Karti was not a “Hindustan Leaver, but Hindustan Returner” for which he got the reward of arrest at the airport.
The defence counsel said Karti was ready for any conditions like surrender of passport and remaining within the city apart from marking daily attendance.
The CBI counsel said that Indrani Mukherjea, an accused in the case, had told a magistrate that Karti had met her in a Delhi hotel and demanded $1 million in bribe for the FIPB clearance in the INX case.
While being taken to the court, Karti said his arrest was an act of political vendetta by the Modi government.
“Absolutely, political vendetta,” he said and expressed confidence that he will eventually be vindicated.
At a Congress briefing, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala called the arrest the “political persecution of P Chidambaram by a puppet CBI acting to serve the political agenda of its political masters” and to mask the culture of colossal corruption and cronyism flourishing under the government”.
He said the CBI and ED were being used to “divert, deflect and distract” attention from bank scams totalling Rs 31,691 crore that were exposed in the last 10 days.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rejected the Congress claim on the arrest.
“The law is taking its course, and the law must take its course. The CBI will explain all details. The government has no hand in the issue,” the minister told the media.
He said in such cases, issues are raised but evidence available against the accused speaks for itself and not the alibis of the offender.