P Chidambaram arrested by ED in INX Media case
P Chidambaram was arrested at 10.15 am, minutes after the investigating officer recorded a statement by the ex-minister on a meeting he had with Peter Mukerjea and his wife, Indrani Mukerjea, in 2007.Updated: Oct 17, 2019 01:01 IST
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday arrested former Union minister P Chidambaram for suspected money laundering in the INX Media case after questioning him in Tihar jail, where he is already in judicial custody on corruption charges brought by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the same case.
The ED’s investigating officer told Chidambaram that he was being arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, because ₹3 crore had been paid to his son Karti Chidambaram’s companies by INX Media co-founder, Peter Mukerjea, at the senior Congress politician’s best, said an ED official.
The money was paid in return for Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the broadcasting company, the officer said, according to an official. He was referring to the approval granted to INX Media for receiving overseas funds of ₹305 crore in 2007, when Chidambaram was finance minister in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
Chidambaram was arrested at 10.15 am, minutes after the investigating officer recorded a statement by the ex-minister on a meeting he had with Peter Mukerjea and his wife, Indrani Mukerjea, in 2007.
According to an ED official, Chidambaram replied: “I was a minister. A lot of people used to come and meet me. I don’t remember meeting them [Mukerjeas].”
Chidambaram and his son, Karti, have alleged that they were victims of the politics of vendetta being waged by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government, which has retorted that the law was taking its own course.
The ED officer told Chidambaram that Indrani Mukerjea had recorded a statement under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure before a magistrate, apparently referring to a statement she made incriminating him. Both the Mukerjeas are in prison, charged with the murder of her daughter by a previous marriage.
Informing the 74-year-old Rajya Sabha member that substantial evidence existed to establish his guilt, the IO then handed over the “grounds of arrest” to Chidambaram and left the Tihar to inform a Delhi court. Hours later, the court was informed about his arrest.
The ED will seek 14 days’ remand on Thursday afternoon, when the jail authorities will produce Chidambaram in the court of special CBI judge, Ajay Kumar Kuhar, at the Rouse Avenue courts. The judge had on Tuesday allowed the ED to interrogate Chidambaram and, if required, arrest him and seek his custodial remand in connection with the case of money laundering.
Chidambaram’s arrest on money laundering charges has come at a time when the CBI is also preparing to file a corruption charge sheet against him, Karti Chidambaram and then-FIPB officials, including Sindhushree Khullar, who was additional secretary in the department of economic affairs when the alleged irregularities took place in 2007. A CBI officer said the charge sheet could be filed by end of this week. The leader was arrested on August 21 by the CBI on corruption charges in the INX Media case. He has been lodged in Tihar since September 5.
An ED official familiar with the developments said the agency will ask Chidambaram about the payments made to Karti through different companies and the kind of consultancy work his son does, given that he has properties abroad. He will be confronted with the statements of FIPB officials, an officer said. Karti, who met his father on Wednesday, told reporters outside Tihar: “I am entitled to meet him twice a week. He is in good spirits and whatever procedural games are being played are for political theatrics.” He tweeted, “Timing of the arrest is nothing but a blatant and mala fide act to frustrate the outcome of the proceedings in the Supreme Court.”