Karti Chidambaram using Benami deals to control empire: Report

Ex-finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti own controversial firm Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd through benami names, journalist S Gurumurthy wrote in The New Indian Express. The duo, in the past, has constantly declined to have ownership in the firm and said that it belonged to their friends. 

The newspaper quoted access to Wills, signed by current shareholders in Advantage, stating that after their death, the shares in Advantage will go to his daughter Aditi Nalini Chidambaram. They also mention him as the executor for all these Wills. These documents were seized from Karti’s vault by sleuths in joint raids conducted by the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement wing of the government in December.

Benami deals are based on secret trust between the benamis and the real owner and require no documentation. However, in this case, Karti is said to have documented all these in the Wills mentioned above, which prove the use of Benami approach, the newspaper reported. 

Advantage is said to be holding 90,000 shares from the 1.5 lakh shares in Vasan Eye Care, the South India-based eye care chain. Vasan has faced allegations of being a front for laundering Karti’s black money into the firm. 

The company also has a subsidiary, Advantage Singapore, which struck global deals and helped build an empire, with investments in London, Dubai, South Africa, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, British Virgin Island, France, USA, Switzerland, Greece and Spain.

The huge wealth build up is said to have taken place when Chidambaram was the finance minister and home minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime at the Centre. 

Modus operandi

Out of Advantage India’s five lakh shares, three lakh (60%) is held in the name of four benamis — CBN Reddy, Padma Vishwanathan and Ravi Vishwanathan, and Bhaskararaman. 

The four people have signed Wills, which mention that the entire 60% ownership of Advantage India will be given to Karti’s daughter Aditi. All of them state Karti to be the executor of the Wills.

Interestingly, all the Wills have been executed on the same day, June 19, 2013, along with identical language and content. 

The document divides the wealth into two parts. While personal assets will be transferred to their spouse and children, the shares — worth many crore — shows transfer to Chidambaram family. 

The Reasoning

CBN Reddy who has promised transferring 42% share to the family states he was greatly indebted to his his ‘friend, philosopher, and guide’ Dr B Rangarajan — Karti’s father-in-law . This was a token of his love for the family, he states. 

Ravi Viswanathan repeats the above-mentioned rhetoric to justify the pledge in the Will. Meanwhile, Bhaskararaman and Padma Viswanathan say that they had recognised the contribution made by Dr Rangarajan to their life, ‘which was immeasurable’. Interestingly, all of them avoid mentioning the name of P Chidambaram and Karti Chidambaram as the grandfather and father, respectively, of Aditi. 

Hitting Out

Despite these allegations, the family had denied them. In fact, the ex-finance minister had accused the current NDA government of having started ‘malicious onslaught’. “If the government wishes to target me, they should do so directly, not harass friends of my son who carry on their own businesses and have nothing to do with politics,” he said. 

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