INX Media: The case that led to Chidambaram’s downfall


New Delhi: The INX Media case, in which former Union finance minister P Chidambaram has been arrested by the CBI, pertains to allegations of bribery by the company’s promoters — Peter and Indrani Mukerjea — both in jail for allegedly killing Indrani’s daughter from an earlier marriage, to get foreign investment clearances.

INX Media, founded in 2006 by media mogul Peter Mukerjea and his wife Indrani, made an application seeking clearance to a foreign investment proposal on March 13, 2007.

The application was made to the chairman of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) — an erstwhile inter-ministerial body that was responsible for processing foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals.

Chaired by the economic affairs secretary, the FIPB had other permanent members, including the secretaries of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Commerce, Economic Relations in the ministry of external affairs and overseas Indian affairs.

The company had proposed to get FDI worth Rs 4.62 crore, which was cleared by the FIPB with an approval from the then finance minister Chidambaram, but the company, in violation of the conditions, received Rs 305 crore with a premium of Rs 800 per share.

The investment raised suspicion, prompting the Income Tax (IT) department to issue a communique to the FIPB, demanding a probe in the matter.

The board told the IT department that the matter was verified and also sought clarifications from INX Media.

In order to “wriggle out” of a situation that could have led to punitive action, the company entered into a criminal conspiracy with Karti Chidambaram, the minister’s son and the promoter of Chess Management, to get the issue addressed “amicably by influencing” public servants in the FIPB, the CBI has alleged in the FIR.

INX Media was advised by the FIPB to file a fresh application for the downstream investment already made in the company. The request of the IT department to probe the matter was also scuttled, the central agency has alleged.

The finance ministry not only granted fresh proposals, but also “misinformed the investigation” being conducted by the IT department, the CBI has alleged.

It has further alleged that an amount of Rs 10 lakh was paid to Advantage Strategic for management consultancy charges towards the FIPB notification and clarification. The company also generated invoices of Rs 3.5 crore towards INX Media.

According to the CBI, Advantage Strategic is indirectly controlled by Karti, which has been strongly denied by him and his father.

Chidambaram has not been named as an accused in the FIR and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is yet to file a chargesheet in the matter.

The senior Congress leader has strongly denied the allegations against him. He had also appeared before the agency last year after notices were issued to him.

Meanwhile, Indrani Mukerjea, one of the accused in the FIR, turned approver in the case and alleged that she had met Chidambaram in his office and later, his son in a five-star hotel in south Delhi, where she was asked to pay Karti in a foreign bank account.

Indrani was already facing a CBI probe, along with her husband Peter, for allegedly brutally killing her daughter Sheena from her first marriage and burning her body in a forest in Maharashtra.

According to the CBI, Indrani and Peter were against the “intimate relationship” between Sheena and Rahul, Peter’s son from his first wife.

Peter often used to quarrel with Rahul on the issue as he did not approve of his relationship with Sheena, the central agency has alleged.

Sheena (24) was strangled in a car in Mumbai in April 2012 allegedly by Indrani, Indrani’s former husband Sanjeev Khanna and her former driver Shyamvar Rai. The body was then dumped in a forest in neighbouring Raigad district.

The CBI had named Indrani, Khanna and Rai as accused in the case. (PTI)