New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on Monday (August 26) a plea by former fin-ance minister P. Chidambaram challenging his remand to CBI for custodial interrogation as the top court on Friday granted the former minister interim protection from arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Meanwhile, the CBI has sent judicial requests to five countries — the United Kingdom, Singapore, Mauritius, Bermuda and Switzerland — seeking details of international transactions related to investments and payments made by the companies accused in the INX media case.
Directing the hearing of Mr Chidambaram’s plea challenging Delhi high court order rejecting his plea for anticipatory bail and the remand order, the Supreme Court bench of Justice R. Banumathi and Justice A.S. Bopanna said that Mr Chidambaram is “granted interim protection” relating to money laundering and other dimensions of the INX Media case, being investigated by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
While granting protection till Monday — the next date of hearing — Justice Bhanumathi in the order also noted that Mr Chidambaram was “granted interim protection on July 25, 2018” and the co-accused in the case too were granted bail by the high court. As solicitor-general Tushar Mehta put up a spirited resistance to any relief to Mr Chidambaram in the dimension of the INX Media case being investigated by the ED), Justice Banumathi noted that three time in the past, Mr Chidambaram had appeared before the ED for questioning — December 19, 2018, January 7 and 21, 2019. On this, Mr Chidambaram’s lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that ED can move the special court for the remand of Mr Chidambaram even before Mr Chidambaram’s current remand to CBI expires. As Mr Mehta said that Mr Chidambaram did not cooperate during the questioning, senior counsel Kapil Sibal said that after January 21, 2019, ED never called Mr Chidambaram for questioning.
Describing the INX Media corruption and money laundering case as one of “monumental magnitude”, the solicitor-general said that the money has been routed out through a web of shell companies, both in India and overseas, and claimed that they have 10 immovable properties and 17 bank accounts in the name of shell companies.
As at the end of the hearing, even after the passing of the order, the solicitor-general wanted to hand over an envelop to the judges urging them to go through it and see the gravity of the offences, Mr Sibal said that they were fabricated. However, when the solicitor general kept on pressing the court to have a look at the report of the investigating agencies — CBI and ED — Mr Sibal said this is exactly what had happened in the high court that after the conclusion of arguments a note was handed over. The CBI had on Wednesday arrested former finance minister P. Chidambaram in connection with alleged corruption in granting clearance to foreign investment worth `305 crore in INX media.
Meanwhile, the CBI has sent judicial requests to five countries seeking details of international transactions related to investments and payments made by the companies accused in the INX media case. INX media had proposed to receive foreign funds from three entities — Mauritius-based Dunearn and NSR-PE, and New Vernon Pvt Equity Limited, part of a US-based company. All these entities are under the scanner of the agency, sources in the CBI said. Besides, foreign transactions of the accused companies Advantage Strategic Consultancy Pvt Ltd and Chess Management, allegedly linked to Mr Chidambaram’s son Karti, are also under the scanner of the CBI, they said.
“We need details of transactions of under-probe companies emanating from foreign shores, hence we have sent detailed questionnaire to those jurisdictions seeking details,” sources said. The CBI continued the questioning of Mr Chidambaram on Friday for nearly six hours. “He is being given treatment befitting his stature as a Rajya Sabha MP. Whatever is in the books is being provided to him,” sources said. In the evening, Mr Chidambaram met his son Karti and wife Nalini in the CBI headquarters. After coming out, Mr Karti said neither he nor his father is corrupt and they will be vindicated. He was responding to a question about comments made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Paris that no corrupt person will be spared.
“Good. I am sure no corrupt man should be spared. That clearly my father is not corrupt and neither am I corrupt and we will be vindicated,” he said. Karti said his father wanted books to read so he provided him Sapiens, a book by historian Yuval Noah Harari. He said his father is in great spirits and “enjoying the hospitality of Government of India”.
“We discussed court proceedings today,” he said, without making any comments on the developments in courts.
In a related development, a Delhi court on Friday extended the interim protection from arrest granted to P Chidambaram and his son Karti in Aircel-Maxis cases till September 3 and pulled up the CBI and the ED for seeking adjournments on the hearing related to their anticipatory bail pleas. The court said the probe agencies have been seeking adjournments in the cases for over a year and it has become “embarrassing” to continue with the matter in this manner.