Ex-minister Chidambaram ‘missing’ after bail rejected

India’s former finance and home minister P Chidambaram, above, failed to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials at 1.30 am on Wednesday, the deadline set by the agency, some ten hours after the Delhi High Court rejected his pre-arrest bail petition in connection with a money laundering case that also involved his son.

Chidambaram did a vanishing act around 5pm on Tuesday, two hours after the Supreme Court rejected his request to grant an urgent hearing of the 2007 INX Media case.

Sometime later, a six-member CBI team visited Chidambaram’s home in Delhi to arrest him. He was not at home and his two phones were switched off. They waited for him for some time, pasted a notice in front of the house asking him to appear before them by 1.30am and left. The notice was sent to his email account.

As CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials continued their search for him on Tuesday, Chidambaram’s lawyers said he will appear before the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning to seek pre-arrest bail which was rejected by the lower court. 

But the charges against him listed by a senior lower court judge are serious. While rejecting Chidambaram’s pre-arrest bail, the court said he appears to be the kingpin in the INX Media case.

The case dates back to 2007 when Chidambaram was the finance minister. The CBI then found irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) which allowed INX Media to receive $42.66 million of overseas funds.

The CBI and ED booked a case in 2017 against Chidambaram’s son Karti for allegedly received bribe from INX for getting foreign investment permits cleared by his father’s ministry.

A year later, ED attached Karti’s assets worth millions in India, Spain and the UK in connection with a money laundering case related to INX Media.
Both Chidambaram and Karti have denied any wrongdoing.

Congress leaders questioned Tuesday’s lower court ruling. They wanted to know why it took seven months for the judge to decide on Chidambaram’s bail application. They hoped the Supreme Court will grant their leader pre-arrest bail on Wednesday.

Subramanian Swamy, a senior lawyer who has been relentlessly pursuing the case, alleged that Chidambaram had been laundering money for Congress acting president Sonia Gandhi.  

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government said it was unbecoming of a former home minister to run away from law.