Karti Chidambaram — lawyer, businessman, sports administrator, now in CBI’s crosshairs

The CBI FIR alleges INX Media used Karti to influence finance ministry officials when his father was finance minister to avoid punishment for receiving foreign investment without approval

ARUN GEORGE

The Central Bureau of Investigation Tuesday searched properties linked to former finance minister P. Chidambaram and his son Karti in connection with clearances given to INX Media under UPA-1 after a case was filed against Karti.

Karti, 47, is a qualified lawyer who has interests in multiple businesses and sporting bodies. In addition to representing the Congress party in Tamil Nadu, he’s the vice-president of the state’s tennis association, the president of a national bowling body and the chief patron of a karate federation.

He’s also no stranger to controversy as his name has figured in the Aircel-Maxis investment case and allegations that he may have benefitted from the deal are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate. Karti has maintained he is innocent.

Karti contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu. In his affidavit filed before the Election Commission, Karti and his wife had financial assets worth Rs 59 crore. This consisted of Rs 25 crore worth of assets in financial instruments and real estate worth Rs 34 crore.

According to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Karti is the director of at least six firms. They are:

  • Chess Global Advisory Services
  • Karpagambal Estate Pvt Ltd
  • Kapaleeswarar Estate Pvt Ltd
  • Karpagavalli Estate Pvt Ltd
  • Kaimakadoo Estate Pvt Ltd
  • Kwaliteit Floritech Pvt Ltd

THE FIR AGAINST KARTI

In its complaint, the CBI has alleged that Karti colluded with officials in the Finance Ministry to push through unauthorised investments in INX Media.

The complaint has said INX Media wanted to receive foreign investments in 2007 and the government approved an investment of Rs 4.6 crore. But the company allegedly obtained an additional Rs 305 crore from foreign investors despite not having the required approval.

When a government agency sought clarifications from INX Media, the CBI has said the company, “in order to wriggle out of the situation without any punitive action, entered into a criminal conspiracy with Karti P Chidambaram”.

The complaint has said that the company reached out to Karti to influence Finance Ministry officials in order to escape any action. The agency said that based on the recommendations given by Karti’s firm, Chess Global Advisory Services, INX Media justified the additional investments to the government.

The CBI claims that thanks to Karti’s influence finance ministry officials advised INX to seek fresh approval for the foreign investment. When INX Media sought fresh approval for foreign investment, it was granted by the Finance Ministry, that was then under Chidambaram.

The CBI has said the company then made a payment of Rs 3.5 crore to Karti through legal consultancy firm Advantage Strategic Consulting. The CBI has said INX Media didn’t make the payment directly to Chess Global Advisory Services to avoid any obvious trail to Karti.

The CBI has said Karti had indirect control over Advantage Strategic Consulting and had raised invoices through other companies as well to receive the funds. However, the CBI has said that there is a record of INX Media paying Advantage Strategic Consulting Rs 10 lakh for consultancy on receiving foreign investments.

Karti Chidambaram and Advantage Strategic Consulting

Data from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs shows that a company created by Karti, named Ausbridge Holdings and Investments, owns a stake in Advantage Strategic Consulting, and is the second largest shareholder with 2 lakh shares in the company. Karti was managing director of Ausbridge from its creation in 2006 to 2012 when he resigned. However, none of this is any evidence of criminality.

In comments reported from Chennai, Karti has said that the filing of cases and the raids on his properties were being done out of political vendetta and to muzzle his father’s voice against the NDA government. Karti said he had not committed any crime and no guilt could be established against him.

–         Arun George is Executive Producer at ThePrint. You can follow him on Twitter @aarungeorge

(Lead photograph, from Karti’s Twitter handle, shows Karti at an estate event in Kodagu)

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