New Delhi: Former finance minister P. Chidambaram on Monday strongly rejected the assertions made by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the FIR that was filed against his son Karti Chidambaram two weeks ago and has said that it is wrong to suggest that any member of his family influenced the six senior government officials who constituted the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) at the time.
On May 16, the CBI registered a case against Karti P Chidambaram for allegedly interfering and influencing the manner in which the Foreign Investment Promotion Board granted approval to a proposal by INX Media Private Limited, a company whose directors were Indrani Mukherjea and Pritam ‘Peter’ Mukherjea. A day later, the agency’s special teams raided the premises of the accused – Karti, the Mukherjeas, and one Padma Viswanathan of Advantage Strategic Consulting – over alleged irregularities in the manner in which INX Media received foreign direct investment to the tune of Rs 305 crore.
At the heart of the issue is whether Karti Chidambaram used his relationship with P Chidambaram (the-then finance minister) to influence “public servants of the FIPB unit of the Ministry of Finance” and help INX Media gloss over a number of foreign investment violations. The FIR alleges that INX Media raised more money than what the FIPB allowed and that it made a downstream investment in INX News without approval. The Mukherjeas then allegedly roped in Karti Chidambaram to ease things over, which is why money was apparently routed to the former finance minister’s son through a company called Advantage Strategic Consulting (P) Limited (ASCPL).
P Chidambaram, however, refutes all of these allegations. In a statement released on Monday, he points out that when he was finance minister he “only approved those cases that were recommended by the FIPB and put up by the Secretary, Economic Affairs”.
“At the relevant time, the FIPB was chaired by D Subba Rao, IAS who later became the Governor of RBI. He was succeeded by Ashok Chawla, IAS who later became Chairman of the Competition Commission of India. The other Secretaries were equally distinguished civil servants,” Chidambaram says in his statement.
“Any one familiar with the working of the FIPB knows that no single officer can take a decision on any proposal. It is a collective decision of six Secretaries. Any one who has worked with me knows that no one would dare to influence my decisions. I had never allowed any family member to speak to me or to any officer of my ministry on any official matter. It is therefore preposterous to suggest that a member of my family, with or without my knowledge, influenced, by corrupt or illegal means, the six Secretaries who constituted the FIPB. Such an allegation is a despicable slur on the six Secretaries of the government who constituted the FIPB at the relevant time,” he added.
Role of ASCPL
Chidambaram also emphatically states that “Karti Chidambaram… never met any officer connected with the FIPB” and that he had no connection with INX Media or Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd, the company that the CBI has alleged through which payments were routed to Karti for the services rendered.
“The promoters/directors of ASCPL have, on more than one occasion, made it clear that ASCPL is their company and they alone are responsible for the business of that company. They are business friends of Karti Chidambaram and have normal relations that is common among business friends. I feel sad that my son and his business friends are being targeted. I am indignant that some of the most distinguished civil servants of the country have been humiliated by the FIR. In the instant case, it is not one Secretary but six Secretaries (and the FIPB secretariat) who are being humiliated on a ridiculous charge of being induced by an alleged gratification of Rs 10 lakhs,” he said.