Explained: The ‘bribe for visa’ case and many charges against Karti Chidambaram

Explained: The ‘bribe for visa’ case and many charges against Karti Chidambaram

The 'bribe for visa' case is an offshoot of the ongoing probe in the INX media case. PTI

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday raided the home and offices of Congress member of Parliament (MP) Karti Chidambaram, the son of former Union finance minister P Chidambaram. Associates of Karti Chidambaram were also searched across Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab, and Odisha.

The CBI has filed a fresh case against the Lok Sabha MP for allegedly facilitating visas of 250 Chinese nationals after receiving illegal gratification of Rs 50 lakh.

“I have lost count, how many times has it been? Must be a record,” Karti Chidambaram tweeted shortly after the searches, referring to the multiple raids he has faced.

I have lost count, how many times has it been? Must be a record.

— Karti P Chidambaram (@KartiPC) May 17, 2022

The Congress leader is no stranger to controversy. He is being investigated in several cases. Karti and his father have been facing allegations of corruption for a decade from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He has maintained all along, that he is a target of political vendetta.

We take a look at the many charges against Chidambaram junior and why he remains such a contentious figure in the political landscape.

The INX Media case

In January 2008, the finance ministry flagged Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of Rs 305 crore by three Mauritius-based companies in INX Media Pvt Ltd, then owned by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea. The discrepancies were forwarded to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which registered a case against the media group for alleged Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations.

Years later, ED found documents related to INX media in the computer belonging to Karti’s CA while investigating a company associated with him. The papers indicated payments made to Karti’s alleged firm by INX Media at a time when it was granted a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance by the finance ministry, reports The Indian Express.

The CBI registered a case against Karti and his father P Chidambaram and the ED launched a money laundering case against the former.

Explained: The ‘bribe for visa’ case and many charges against Karti Chidambaram

Both Karti Chidambaram and his father P Chidambaram were arrested in the INX Media case and later received bail. PTI

Investigations have revealed that Karti received foreign funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore when his father was the finance minister. Chidambaram junior was arrested by the CBI in February 2018 and was granted bail a month later in March.

P Chidambaram too was arrested in the case in August 2019 and was granted bail by the Supreme Court in December that year.

The new case is an offshoot of the ongoing probe in the INX media case. According to the CBI, Karti received a Rs 50 lakh bribe to facilitate the visa of 250 Chinese nationals during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule for a power project in Punjab between 2010 and 2014.

The Aircel-Maxis case Senior BJP leader and advocate Subramanian Swamy had alleged that a company controlled by Karti Chidambaram had in 2006 received a five per cent stake in Aircel, an Indian network operator, in return for getting Maxis to pay Rs 40 billion for 74 per cent shares in Aircel.
According to Swamy, P Chidambaram held back on the FIPB approval until his son received the five per cent take.

“The dubious transactions show that P Chidambaram as a finance minister ensured that the FIPB would clear the Aircel-Maxis deal only if the company controlled by his son Karti P Chidambaram gets a stake in Aircel Televenture Ltd as his share of the booty from Maxis,” Swamy had alleged.

In 2006, Maxis had taken over Aircel. The deal came under the scanner in 2011 when Aircel owner C Sivasankaran complained to the CBI alleging he had been pressured to sell his stake to Maxis.

The CBI registered a case in October that year. After a probe, P Chidambaram and Karti were named as accused in a supplementary chargesheet in July 2018. The ED too got involved in the investigation.

According to the probe agencies, Chidambaram, who was then the finance minister, played a role in getting the approval in 2006. They claimed he approved the deal beyond his capacity, benefiting certain people including his son.

The Aircel-Maxis deal was worth over Rs 3,500 crore and should have been referred to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs since the finance minister had the authority to clear FDI approvals through FIPB only up to Rs 600 crore, the agencies had said. They also alleged a company “indirectly controlled” by Karti, Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL), had received a consultancy fee of Rs 26 lakh from Aircel Televentures.

In March 2022, a Delhi court granted bail to the father-son duo in the corruption and money-laundering cases in relation to the Aircel-Maxis deal. The court, which had earlier granted them anticipatory bail, accepted the bail bonds of Rs 1 lakh each in both the cases and granted regular bail.

The assets of Karti Chidambaram

The investigation into INX media put under scanner the assets owned by Karti Chidambaram. According to ED, Karti purchased land and a tennis club in Spain’s Barcelona worth Rs 15 crore, cottages in Britain, and other properties in India and abroad worth Rs 54 crore.

The former FM’s son also has a fixed deposit with the Indian Overseas Bank’s Nungambakkam branch in Chennai which has Rs 9.23 crore and a fixed deposit of Rs 90 lakh of Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL) with the DCB Bank in Chennai.

According to a report in India Today in 2019, the ED findings linked Karti to overseas Benami properties in the United Kingdom. The ED, based on the documents of properties had alleged that he gave £1000 to a dealer to maintain the property.

Karti also had several bank accounts in London and closed them after the probe began against him in the Aircel-Maxis case, the investigations against him revealed.

According to the Income Tax department, Karti, his mother, and wife purchased properties and made investments in the United Kingdom and the United States to the tune of Rs 9.45 crore. Prosecution cases showed Chidambarams acquired property worth Rs 5.37 crore in Cambridge besides two other investments were made by Karti over Rs 4 crore.

Karti’s role in politics
Karti is a Congress Lok Sabha MP from Sivaganga.

However, when he was given a ticket there was uproar in the Tamil Nadu Congress with former Union minister E M Sudarsana Natchiappan saying people “hated” the family.

In January 2015, Karti was show-caused by the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress party for apparently disrespecting legendary party leader K Kamaraj and lauding Narendra Modi. In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Karti was one of the spokespersons for the Congress party.

Karti has followed in his father’s footsteps and studied overseas. He pursued Business Administration in the US and completed post-graduation at Cambridge. He hasn’t been as successful as his father in politics but has continued to court controversy.

With inputs from agencies

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