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Above: Karti Chidambaram talks to supporters during the CBI raid at his Chennai home 

In their pursuit of Chidambaram and his family members, the Enforcement Directorate, the CBI and the IT department have displayed a tenacity seldom seen before

~By India Legal Bureau

After months of interrogation, even intimidation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on June 13, 2018 finally filed a chargesheet against Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis deal.

The chargesheet was filed before the Patiala CBI special court which has listed the matter for further hearing on July 4. This is the first chargesheet filed by the ED in the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case registered against Karti and others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The agency has charged Karti under Sections 3, 4 and 45 of the PMLA 2002. If the charges stick, Karti could spend between three to seven years on non-bailable rigorous imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.

The day before the chargesheet against Karti was filed, the senior Chidambaram was interrogated for over five hours for the second time this month in connection with the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case. Karti had earlier been questioned multiple times in this case. The ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are probing the father and son for allegedly taking kickbacks in exchange for getting the Aircel-Maxis deal of over Rs 3,500 crore cleared by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in 2006, when Chidambaram was the finance minister.

As a lawyer, courts are familiar territory for Chidambaram. These days, however, the Congress leader and his immediate family, consisting of wife Nalini, also a lawyer, and son Karti have been spending a disproportionate amount of time in various courts across the country.

The last few months, in particular, have been hellish for the family as various agencies of the government, including the ED and the IT department displayed a tenacity seldom shown, in their pursuit of Karti who has already spent time in jail. He would have headed back behind bars on June 11 but for an unusual midnight sitting of the Madras High Court  on June 9 granting him protection from arrest. This followed a plea from him against an arrest warrant issued by the IT department late on June 8.

A slew of cases have kept the family flitting from court to court over the last few months. Apart from the Aircel-Maxis scam, there is the INX Media bribe case in which Karti is accused of having received Rs 10 lakh in kickbacks in 2007 to clear foreign investment worth Rs 305 crore for the media house when his father was finance minister in the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) under the Finance Ministry’s Revenue Department has also initiated two probes under the new Black Money Act and Benami Act against Chidambaram, Karti and other family members for amassing properties in nearly 14 countries and undeclared 21 foreign bank accounts.

The details were made public by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy by producing the findings of the Income Tax’s Chennai unit and the ED. These two agencies unearthed illegal assets of over Rs 10,000 crore during their raid at Karti’s companies in December 2015 and January 2016 in connection with the probe in Aircel-Maxis scam.

Chidambaram’s wife Nalini is accused of being involved in the Sarada Chit Fund scam. As per the confession of the Chit Fund owner Sudipto Sen, Nalini forced him into an agreement and he had given money of around Rs 25 crore. The CBI and ED are now probing the case. Nalini’s role is detailed by the CBI in the hotel grabbing case using Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) when Chidambaram was finance minister. Nalini’s conversation with people involved in the transactions shows the arrogant abuse of power by Chidambaram and his family.

The former finance minister’s colleagues from the Congress and the opposition have rallied around him and termed the government moves as “repeated persecution and scurrilous witchhunt”. In February, Chidambaram moved the Supreme Court to seek protection of his right to privacy and the right to live in dignity with his family. In his nearly 100-page petition, which introduced him as a senior advocate and Member of Parliament, Chidambaram alleged “witchhunt” by the CBI and the ED to target his son since the BJP-led NDA government came to power.

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