CHENNAI/NEW DELHI — In a dramatic development in the INX Media case, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram's son, Karti Chidambaram, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation from Chennai airport while returning from a trip abroad, with the Congress crying "political vendetta" and the government rejecting the charge.
Later in the evening, a Delhi court remanded him to a one-day custody with the CBI.
Karti Chidambaram's arrest came nine months after the CBI registered a first information report against him on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, accepting gratification by corrupt or illegal means, influencing public servants and criminal misconduct.
Following his arrest in Chennai, CBI officials took him to Delhi the same afternoon. He was taken to the CBI headquarters and then produced before a duty magistrate.
Karti allegedly received Rs. 3.5 crore from the Mumbai-based INX Media, now known as 9X Media, for helping it get Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance in 2007, when it was run by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, both accused in the Sheena Bora murder case.
The FIR does not mention the senior Chidambaram, though it said he cleared the FIPB approval for Rs. 4.62 crore FDI in the firm at a FIPB meeting May 18, 2007.
In Delhi, Metropolitan Magistrate Sumit Anand granted the remand until 12:30 p.m. March 1 when a regular CBI court will hear the agency that sought a 15-day remand of Karti Chidambaram for detailed questioning.
The CBI counsel told the duty magistrate that they needed his custodial interrogation because he was not cooperating with the probe and traveled abroad frequently.
Rejecting the CBI claim, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi said both charges against his client were false. He said Karti Chidambaram appeared before the CBI and Enforcement Directorate for 30-40 hours and cooperated.
Singhvi said after Aug. 28 last year, the CBI did not issue any summons and that Karti Chidambaram always sought court permission before traveling abroad. He also rejected the charge of Karti Chidambaram possibly tampering with evidence, saying this was a 10-year-old case based on documents and there was no question of tampering.
Describing the arrest as "malafide," Singhvi jocularly remarked that Karti Chidambaram was not a "Hindustan Leaver, but Hindustan Returner" for which was rewarded with arrest at the airport.
The defense counsel said Karti Chidambaram was prepared for any conditions, such as the surrender of the passport and being detained within the city, as well as marking daily attendance.
The CBI counsel said that Indrani Mukherjea, an accused in the case, had told a magistrate that Karti Chidambaram had met her in a Delhi hotel and demanded a bribe of $1 million for the FIPB clearance in the INX case.
While being taken to court, Karti Chidambaram said his arrest was an act of political revenge by the Narendra Modi government.
"Absolutely, political vendetta," he said, and expressed confidence that he would eventually be vindicated.
At a Congress briefing, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala called the arrest the "political persecution of P. Chidambaram by a puppet CBI acting to serve the political agenda of its political masters" and to mask the culture of colossal corruption and cronyism flourishing under the government."
He said the CBI and ED were being used to "divert, deflect and distract" attention from bank scams totaling Rs. 31,691 crore that were exposed in the last 10 days.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rejected the Congress claims about the arrest.
"The law is taking its course, and the law must take its course. The CBI will explain all details. The government has no hand in the issue," the minister told the media.
He said in such cases, issues are raised but evidence available against the accused speaks for itself, rather than the offenders’ alibis.