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CBI, ED widen investigation against Karti, will probe more decisions by Chidambaram

The CBI and ED will also question officials who were part of the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board, which recommended those proposals.

india Updated: Oct 28, 2017 07:39 IST
P Suchetana Ray
P Suchetana Ray
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Karti Chidambaram,P Chidambaram,Aircel-Maxis
File photo of Karti Chidambaram, the son of former finance minister P. Chidambaram, arriving at the CBI headquarters in New Delhfor questioning. (HT)

Federal investigation agencies will examine at least six more foreign investment approvals given by former finance minister P Chidambaram, as part of their probe against his son, Karti, who is accused of benefiting from his father’s decisions.

The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate will also question officials who were part of the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) which recommended those proposals, sources at the agencies told Hindustan Times.

Karti, 45, is accused of receiving bribes from companies that benefitted from his father’s decisions. Chidambaram, 72, and Karti deny any wrongdoing.

Until the Narendra Modi government disbanded it in 2017, the FIPB used to approve foreign investment deals of up to a certain value. The FIPB made its recommendations to the finance minister.

“We are looking into approvals granted during Chidambaram’s time as finance minister, first between 2004 and 2008, and then again from 2012 to 2014. Our further investigations are based on information we are getting from the ongoing probes,” a senior officer with one of the agencies told Hindustan Times.

The officer spoke on the condition that neither he nor his agency be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. Details are also being sought from the income tax department to check if slush funds were sent abroad to buy assets, the officer said.

The former minister refused to react to the widening of investigations, but he had earlier said the cases are attempts by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to silence its critics.

Karti also refused to comment on the probe. “I wish I was in London but I am in Chennai. Next week I am coming to Delhi,” he said, when contacted by HT. Karti has sought permission from the apex court to go to Britain for his daughter’s university admission. The CBI has issued a look-out notice against him.

The CBI, the lead investigation agency, has alleged that Chidambaram exceeded his authority as finance minister in 2006 to clear investment proposals from a subsidiary of Malaysia-based Maxis in the Indian telecom company Aircel.

According to rules, the CBI alleges, the agency could clear deals up to Rs 600 crore. The Aircel-Maxis transaction involved Rs 3,200 crore.

The agency accuses Karti of accepting kickbacks to facilitate the approval.

“We will have to question the members of FIPB why certain decisions were taken by Chidambaram to understand the sequence of events that led to those approvals,” said another officer from a second investigating agency.

Chidambaram has said the clearance was given in “normal course”. In September, Chidambaram tweeted: “...in Aircel-Maxis, the FIPB recommended and I approved the minutes...”

A second case under investigation pertains to allegations by the CBI that Karti received bribe to scuttle a revenue department inquiry into irregularities in foreign investments for media company INX.

The case goes back to 2007 when Chidambaram was still the finance minister.

First Published: Oct 27, 2017 19:47 IST