The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has decided to widen its money-laundering probe against former finance minister P. Chidambaram him as it suspects his role in granting allegedly illegal FIPB clearances to at least four more business deals.
Prior to his arrest, Chidambaram, last evening, claimed he had not been accused of any wrongdoing in the INX Media case nor he and his family members had been chargesheeted in the case. Experts believe that fearing that the current case against the former minister might fail judicial scrutiny, the ED decided to widen the ambit of its probe.
The Central probe agencies are already investigating the former finance minister for the alleged corruption in two business deals — one involving INX Media and the other involving Aircel-Maxis.
Sources said the ED has come across evidence where alleged illegal deposits of over Rs 300 crores were made in a single shell firm after purported kickbacks were received by Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram in lieu of granting illegal Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) approvals.
Sources also said the ED is probing the former finance minister’s role in grating alleged illegal FIPB approvals in at least four cases involving Diageo Scotland Ltd, Katara Holdings, Essar Steel Ltd and Elforge Ltd. The FIPB, that used to work under the Union finance ministry, has now been scrapped.
The senior Congress leader is already facing a probe by the agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for grant of FIPB approval in an allegedly illegal manner in the Aircel-Maxis and INX Media cases. The ED has found, sources said, that Chidambaram and his son are “beneficial owners” of several shell firms that were incorporated both in India and abroad.
INX Media was owned by media entrepreneurs Peter Mukerjea and his wife Indrani Mukerjea. Both are in a Mumbai jail for killing Sheena Bora, the daughter of Indrani Mukerjea from her former husband. The CBI backed its case with a statement from Indrani Mukerjea, who has turned approver. Indrani Mukerjea said INX Media got a favourable deal after she had a meeting with Chidambaram seeking FIPB clearance in 2008.