Karti may be tip of the iceberg as CBI prepares to grill him

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is chasing a leviathan called INX Media case in the deep as a Delhi court on Thursday granted it five days’ custody of a key suspect, Karti Chidambaram.

Karti, son of India’s former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, is in spot over his alleged role in helping Mumbai-based INX Media in 2007 to receive overseas funds by getting clearance from the federal Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) when his father was finance minister.

The INX Media investigation has reached a crucial stage and Indian agencies presented more evidence before the Sessions Court in Delhi on Thursday to secure 14 days’ custody of Kartik to gather more incriminating evidence in the case. The court, however, granted CBI only five days’ custody of Karti till March 6.

With a long weekend ahead starting on Friday (Feb 2) with Holi (festival of colours) celebrations, CBI has limited time to make Karti spill the beans.

If CBI needs an extension of Karti’s custody, it has to unearth new evidence to show the suspect is just a tip of the iceberg.

Special Judge Sunil Rana is seriously viewing fresh evidence presented before him on Thursday.

The court heard additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for CBI, how Karti tried to destroy the evidence when he went to London by closing all bank accounts in which funds were received.

Mehta maintained this was not a case of political vendetta as alleged and the investigation was going on in accordance with Article 21 of the Constitution.

In May 2007, first FIPB approval was given to INX Media. From June 2008, the payment of bribe money began. The second FIPB approval was given on November 2, 2008. Mehta said the agency is in possession of emails and invoices indicating money was given to Karti-linked Advantage Strategic Consultancy around the time INX Media received favours.

With Karti’s parents watching the court proceedings, Congress leader and senior advocate Abhishek Mani Singhvi contended that if Karti had done something illegal when he was abroad, CBI should have filed a contempt petition before the court which allowed him to travel abroad. On March 6, Singhvi and his team of lawyers are expected to come with stronger arguments to get Karti released on bail.

 Weak case, says Congress

Congress and opposition parties are saying the case against Karti is very weak since, according to them, it is based on an evidence by Indrani Mukerjea, former director of INX Media.

Mukerjea had submitted before a magistrate on February 17 that Karti was paid $1 million to get FIPB approval for foreign direct investments in INX Media.  She said the deal with Kartik was struck at Hyatt hotel in New Delhi. It was like a confessional statement.

Indrani, along with her husband Peter Mukerjea, told CBI and Enforcement Directorate they also met Chidambaram at his office for getting FIPB clearances. Chidambaram asked them to “help the business of his son” by making remittances to firms Advantage Strategic Consultancy and Chess Management.

Kari’s lawyer Singhvi said arresting his client on the basis of Indrani’s statement was bizarre since the woman has been jailed for killing her own daughter, Sheena Bora.

While Congress dismisses Indrani’s statement, CBI might have gathered strong evidence from Karti’s chartered account S. Bhaskararaman whom they arrested on February 16.