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CBI files chargesheet against PC, 9 others

CBI files chargesheet against PC, 9 others

New Delhi: After pouring in the best investigative resources available to them, the CBI's nearly two and a half year probe in the INX Media case has been able to corroborate only Rs 9.96 lakh in payments to companies beneficially controlled by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram's son, Karti Chidambaram, in exchange for according the company with illegal FDI to the tune of Rs 403.07 crore.

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday filed the first chargesheet in the INX Media case, naming Chidambaram, Karti, Peter Mukerjea, seven others and four companies as accused, with Indrani Mukerjea, then director of INX Media named as a prosecution witness.

The case had picked up steam after Indrani, accused in the murder case of her daughter, decided to turn approver in the INX case and was then made a prosecution witness in the case, which now implicates the senior Congress leader.

The CBI chargesheet names Ajit Kumar Dungdung, then Section Officer, FIPB Unit, MoF; Rabindra Prasad, then Under Secretary, FIPB Unit; Pradeep Kumar Bagga, then OSD of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) to the MoF; Prabodh Saxena, then Director of FIPB Unit; Anup K Pujari, then Joint Secretary (Foreign Trade), DEA; Sindhushree Khullar, then Additional Secretary, DEA; and S Bhaskararaman, a chartered accountant as accused.

While the CBI has charged the accused under relevant sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act, the central agency's probe so far has been able to establish only Rs 9.96 lakh in payments to Advantage Strategic Consultants Pvt Ltd (ASCPL), a company beneficially owned by Karti.

However, the CBI's own FIR itself claims that a bribe amount of around Rs 3.5 crore was paid to companies where Karti has "sustainable interests either directly or directly".

Interestingly, sources in the know said that Indrani, in her statement to the CBI had claimed that she had paid approximately USD 5 million to get the necessary approvals for the FDI into INX Media and the subsequent downstream investment in its sister concern, INX News Media Pvt Ltd, both of which have been charge-sheeted.

Moreover, after Chidambaram was arrested from his Jor Bagh home amid high drama, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI had claimed in court that a further payment of USD 450,000 was made to shell companies allegedly linked to the Chidambarams.

Officials here, however, said that the investigation in the case is not yet over and according to Indrani's statements a large part of the payments was made through offshore transactions, which is being looked into by the CBI as they wait for a response on the Letter Rogatory (LRs) sent to Singapore, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Bermuda and Switzerland.

The CBI chargesheet said that Indrani and Peter entered into a criminal conspiracy with Chidambaram, his son and the other accused to get the issue of illegal FDI received in their company settled without any penal actions, thereby

causing "undue pecuniary advantage to the companies in terms of possible penalty under FEMA, which could have been up to three times of the total amount involved", according to officials.

Officials added that Indrani had also revealed the role of Chidambaram in getting the FIPB approval issue sorted out in exchange for illegal gratification. Sources added that Indrani met with Chidambaram to discuss the brass tacks of the deal sometime in March/April 2007.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Friday reserved its order on Chidambaram's bail plea in the INX Media corruption case, after SG Mehta concluded arguments by submitting that the CBI had filed a chargesheet before the mandated deadline, outlining the charges against him in the case.

Abhinay Lakshman

Abhinay Lakshman

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