Chennai/New Delhi: Karti Chidambaram was on Wednesday arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation at Chennai airport on his arrival from London over its probe into the INX Media case. Karti, son of former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram, was taken into custody by the CBI around 8 am at Chennai airport and put on a flight immediately to New Delhi, where he was taken to the agency’s headquarters for some formalities, after which he was produced before a local court.
Later in the evening, a CBI court in New Delhi sent Karti to one-day CBI custody. The Central agency had sought his custody for 15 days, alleging he was not cooperating with the probe. The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15 last year against alleged irregularities in the FIPB clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of `305 crores in 2007, when Mr Chidambaram was Union finance minister.
Though Karti was arrested in Chennai, the CBI, which has all-India jurisdiction, decided to produce him in a New Delhi court. The duty magistrate, remanding him to one-day CBI custody, asked the agency to produce Karti before the concerned judge on Thursday. When Karti was brought to the Patiala House courts, he told the media: “It is absolutely a political vendetta. I will be vindicated.” Earlier, Karti wrote on the arrest memo, before signing it: “This whole exercise is to politically target my father.”
The Congress leader had fought a protracted legal battle seeking permission to travel to London to get his daughter admitted to Cambridge University. The Supreme Court had allowed him to travel to London in November. Karti arrived in Chennai on Wednesday after a visit to the UK last month.
The FIR alleges Karti had got funds to the tune of `10 lakhs for grant of clearance to INX Media and also that he got money from INX Media to scuttle a tax probe. Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, who are now in jail on charges of murdering Indrani’s daughter Sheena Bora, had then owned INX Media.
Karti’s father P. Chidambaram, who had left for London only on Tuesday night, was rushing back to India following his son’s arrest. Karti’s arrest on Wednesday followed several rounds of raids on the houses and offices owned by the Chidambarams.
A lookout notice, which prevents a passenger from travelling abroad, was issued against him as probe agencies suspected he would try to close foreign accounts where he had parked the money from the kickbacks. In November, the Supreme Court allowed Karti Chidambaram to go to the UK for his daughter’s admission to Cambridge University.
The Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance was given to INX Media in 2007 when Mr Chidambaram was finance minister. INX Media had run channels like NewsX, which has now changed hands.
During the New Delhi hearing, CBI prosecutor V.K. Sharma told the court that Karti has not cooperated in the investigation and he was repeatedly travelling abroad which “confirmed apprehensions” that “he will flee” from the country. He alleged one of the grounds for arresting Karti was that the CBI had recorded the statement of Indrani Mukerjea before a magistrate on February 17 in which she said Karti had “accepted $1 million from INX Media” at a hotel here. Opposing the CBI’s claims, senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Karti, said it was a “bizarre” case and that no grounds for arrest were made out. “It is a bizarre case at the threshold. It is not a case of arrest, leave aside police custody or judicial custody,” Mr Singhvi told the court, opposing the CBI’s remand plea. He also argued that Karti was summoned twice by the CBI on August 23 and 28 last year and he was interrogated for 22 hours by the agency. Mr Singhvi said: “There are no reasons given for the arrest. It is because you (CBI) want to show it to your bosses that you are doing some work. Unlike others, I (Karti) am not ‘Hindustan leaver” and instead I am ‘Hindustan returner’,” he said, claiming Karti was cooperating with the CBI and the court may impose any condition while releasing him from the agency’s custody.