New Delhi: In a major political drama that played out on Wednesday evening, officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate arrested former finance minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram from his Jor Bagh residence here over the INX Media money-laundering case.
The officials of the investigating agencies, accompanied by the Delhi police, reached his residence at around 8.50 pm after Mr Chidambaram, who had gone “missing” for the past 24 hours, made a sudden appearance at the AICC headquarters.
The ED and CBI are all set to expand the scope of the investigation and probe his granting allegedly illegal FIPB clearances to other firms and receiving kickbacks through shell companies. Things might get somewhat tricky for the former finance minister as jailed Indrani Mukerjea, one of the promoters of INX Media and co-accused in the money-laundering case, has reportedly turned approver and given crucial information on Mr Chidamabaram’s alleged role in the money-laundering.
Mr Chidambaram was taken to the CBI headquarters late on Wednesday night, and is expected to be produced in court on Thursday. The CBI is likely to put the former finance minister through a lie detector test.
With his arrest, Mr Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail petition, listed for hearing on Friday in the Supreme Court, becomes infructous, and he will now have to apply
for regular bail. This bail application will have to be heard by a trial court.
Jostling through journalists and photographers gathered outside Mr Chidambaram’s house at 115-A Jor Bagh, CBI officials had to climb over the walls to enter the premises as the former minister’s staff refused to open the gates. The huge team of officials and the Delhi police team virtually took over the premises and opened the gates for other security personnel to enter. The CBI then got a car inside the premises, in which they later whisked away the former minister at around 9.45 pm.
As the CBI prepared to take Mr Chidambaram into custody, Congress workers raising slogans reached his residence and a short scuffle broke out between them and the police. An unidentified person who suddenly appeared at the scene shouting “Chidambaram chor hain” was thrashed by the Congress workers. He was later rescued from the mob by the police.
Earlier on Wednesday, the CBI and ED had stepped up their manhunt for Mr Chidambaram as he suddenly went missing after speculation on his imminent arrest Tuesday evening.
At around 8 pm, Mr Chidambaram made a dramatic entry into the AICC headquarters and issued a statement, saying he was “aghast” to find that “I was accused of hiding from the law”.
Trying desperately to put up a strong defence, Mr Chidambaram claimed that neither he nor any of his family members have been charged by the investigating agencies with “any offence”.
In a bid to refute charges that he had gone underground, Mr Chidambaram claimed he was “working with lawyers to prepare his bail petition”. Suggesting that he should be given a reprieve till his bail petition, rejected by the Delhi high court on Tuesday, came up for hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday, Mr Chidambaram said: “Until Friday and beyond, let’s hope the lamp of liberty will shine bright and illuminate the whole country.” Reading out a statement, he said: “I will respect the law even if applied with an unequal hand by the probe agencies.”
Without taking any questions, Mr Chidambaram, accompanied by top Congress legal brains Kapil Sibal and Abhishek “Manu” Singhvi, left for his Jor Bagh residence. Mr Chidambaram was inside his residence for nearly 50 minutes, where he was questioned by at least six CBI officials. Both Mr Sibal and Mr Singhvi were with him till he was taken into custody.
After he was taken away, his son Karti Chidambaram, speaking in Chennai, said the “drama and spectacle being enacted by the agencies is to simply sensationalise and satisfy the voyeuristic pleasure of some”.