ED, CBI point to four more 'illegal' FIPB approvals under Chidambaram

CBI officials arrest Congress leader P Chidambaram from his Jor Bagh residence in New Delhi on Wednesday | Photo: PTI
Investigation by probe agencies has revealed irregularities in foreign investment clearances given by former finance minister P Chidambaram to four other companies, besides INX Media group and Aircel-Maxis, according to officials in the know.

Evidence collected by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) indicates kickbacks received by shell companies allegedly floated by the former FM’s son Karti P Chidambaram when approvals were granted by the erstwhile Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). 

Other four firms which are under the scanner are Diageo Scotland, Essar Steel, Katara Holdings and Elforge Ltd. These firms were granted FIPB approval when Chidambaram was the FM. 

The CBI is investigating cases of illegal FIPB approvals by P Chidambaram in lieu of kickbacks paid to various shell companies floated by Karti Chidambaram in the name of his employees and other business associates, an official at a probe agency said. ED is specifically probing the money laundering aspects. 

During the investigation, the probe agency has come across several shell firms both in India and abroad which had allegedly received kickbacks from these companies, the officials said. "About two dozen foreign bank accounts have been identified which were used to park kickbacks received from illegal favour granted by the former minister.’’ The ED has established that over Rs 300 crore of deposits were made in one of the shell firms, according to an investigator. The directors and shareholders of the said shell firms have transferred shareholdings to Chidambaram’s granddaughter, officials pointed out. The executor of the will is Karti Chidambaram. 

Probe agencies said all information regarding offshore assets through Letter Rogatory (LR) issued to several foreign countries to obtain judicial assistance had been collected. 

Last year, ED had registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) following a CBI case filed for alleged irregularities in the FIPB clearance given to INX group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007. 

CBI had alleged that INX Media had flouted the conditional approval of the foreign investment norms. 

Earlier, Indrani Mukherjea had made a disclosure under Section 50 of the PMLA Act that P Chidamabram had met her along with then husband Peter Mukherjea in 2008 for the INX Media matter. Chidambaram had asked them to transfer a certain amount to his overseas account in exchange for facilitating foreign investment clearance, Indrani, who had co-founded INX, had alleged. Later, Karti allegedly met Mukherjea to reaffirm the transfer of money to the firm owned by him.

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