22 August 2019
New Delhi: The CBI, which registered a case in May 2017 of alleged irregularities in the FIPB clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when P. Chidambaram was the Finance Minister in the UPA-1 government, got a much-needed shot in the arm after recording the statement of jailed media baron and co-accused Indrani Mukherjea last year.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has been investigating the alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to the INX media case, was unable to make a watertight case despite arresting Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram in February 2018.
According to a senior CBI official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, Mukherjea's statement was recorded in February 2018 and at the end of the month, Karti Chidambaram was arrested, but the agency was "unable to connect all the dots instantly".
"But things changed soon after we studied Mukherjea statement in which she shared a lot of information with us, details about the meeting with then Finance Minister in his office in the North Block and then her meeting with Karti Chidambaram in a Delhi hotel," he said.
The official said that last year when the CBI arrested Karti Chidambaram, it was far from clear as to how the financial transactions took place and when the entire plan was carried out. "But after studying the statements of Mukherjea and then connecting it with the series of events... whether its the FIPB clearance or giving work to Karti's companies after the meeting, a tight case was made," he said.
Indrani Mukherjea, who is currently in jail in the murder case of her daughter Sheena Bora, had spilled the beans on the deal involving Karti Chidambaram while recording her statement before a magistrate here in February last year, including that he had allegedly taken bribes from her.
Among other things, she alleged that Karti Chidambaram received Rs 3.5 crore in kickbacks from INX Media -- now known as 9X News, for securing the FIPB clearance in 2007 in which it received around Rs 305 crore funds from abroad. She also said that Karti Chidambaram had met her at a hotel in New Delhi and allegedly demanded $1 million (Rs 6.5 crore) for the FIPB clearances. The official said as part of that plan, the Mukherjeas (Indrani and her husband Peter) engaged Karti Chidambaram's company Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL).
The official said that as part of the alleged quid pro quo, ASCPL and its associated companies around this time raised four invoices for Rs 3.10 crore on INX Media, which were reimbursed. The FIPB clearance was given soon after that.
The official also said that in March 2007, INX Media breached the condition on which it had been allowed by FIPB to raise 46 per cent equity through issue of shares against the permission to raise Rs 4.62 crore by issuing shares at face value. But the company got in Rs 305 crore by issuing shares at a premium, the official said.
"Last year during questioning of P. Chidambaram, we confronted him with the documents of the Finance Ministry detailing the dates of thw FIPB clearance and the statement made by Indrani. He did not cooperate," the official added.