New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has said former finance minister P. Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram received Rs 3 crore in bribes from INX Media, in return for allowing the media venture to obtain foreign investment over and above the prescribed limit, in 2007.
In its chargesheet filed Tuesday, the ED also alleged that the two then invested the money for further returns that run into several crores. The chargesheet was filed electronically but the special court has asked the agency to file a physical copy, ThePrint has learnt. The court is yet to take cognisance of the chargesheet.
Karti’s chartered accountant (CA) S.S. Bhaskar Ramanan has also been named in the chargesheet, sources said.
Chidambaram was arrested in connection with the case in October last year and was sent to Tihar. He was released on bail in December 2019 after he had spent over 100 days in prison.
Before ED, the CBI had also charged Chidambaram for corruption in the INX Media case. It is probing how the company received overseas funds of Rs 307 crore when he was the finance minister. The CBI had filed its chargesheet against Chidambaram, his son and others in October 2019.
ED probing money trail
The ED is now looking at the money trail, investigating where all the money, allegedly received as illegal gratification, has been parked.
The agency claims that the owners of INX media, Peter Mukerjea and wife Indrani, met Chidambaram to get foreign investment approvals.
ED has also claimed that it has been able to identify payments of Rs 3.09 crore by Peter Mukerjea to ASCPL (Advantage Strategic Consultancy Pvt Ltd) and other companies that are controlled by Karti Chidambaram.
According to the ED, ASCPL invested the money to buy shares of Vasan Healthcare, which were then allegedly sold to make a profit of Rs Rs 41 crore.
The ED has also claimed to have found four invoices, dated September 2008, raised by ACPL, its Singapore subsidiary, and two other companies for $7,00,000.
The case dates back to 2007 when INX Media had moved the now-disbanded Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), which was then overseen by Union finance ministry, for clearance to seek foreign investment.
The FIPB was an inter-ministerial panel that served as the government portal for foreign investment permissions and was headed by the economic affairs secretary.
According to investigating agencies, when INX moved an application, it needed two clearances — one, permission to sell around 46 per cent of its shares to three Mauritius-based entities to channel foreign investment of Rs 4.6 crore, and permission for ‘downstream investment’ in its subsidiary INX News Pvt Limited.
‘Downstream investment’ or indirect foreign investment is the money invested by an Indian company with foreign investors in another Indian company.
While INX Media was granted permission for selling of its shares to get in foreign money, in 2007, the downstream investment plea was denied.
According to ED, the Mukerjeas allegedly went ahead with their plans, securing Rs 305 crore in foreign investment — against the Rs 4.62 crore for which permission was granted — by selling shares at a premium (over their face value).
The shares were to be issued at par or face value — 46.2 lakh shares at Rs 10 each — since there was no mention of premium. But they were allegedly sold at an inflated price to suck in more money.
INX sought help of Karti Chidambaram
The alleged discrepancies were discovered by the finance ministry’s Financial Intelligence Unit, with the income tax department stepping in and referring the case to ED.
The CBI, in its case, has also alleged that on 26 May 2008, when FIPB sought clarification from INX Media after the I-T department began its probe, the media firm engaged Karti Chidambaram, promoter director of Chess Management Service (P) Ltd, to “amicably” resolve the issue by “influencing the public servants of the FIPB unit of Ministry of Finance by virtue of his relationship with the then Finance Minister, P Chidambaram”.
“Since he was Karti’s father and the then finance minister, he was roped in to settle the matter,” a CBI source said.