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Karti Chidambaram, son of Congress leader and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) at the Chennai airport on Wednesday morning in connection with investigations into the INX Media case.
Karti, 46, was taken into custody by a team of CBI officers on his return from the United Kingdom and produced before a Delhi court, which sent him to CBI custody for one day. The agency had sought 15-day remand for the custodial interrogation of Karti.
"This whole exercise is to politically target my father," Karti wrote on the arrest memo before signing it.
Arguing before the court of Metropolitan Magistrate Sumeet Anand, Karti’s counsel, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, said his client was not a “Hindustan leaver” but a “returner”, apparently referring to a number of bank loan defaulters fleeing the country in recent years.
CBI Prosecutor V K Sharma, however, told the court that Karti had not cooperated in the investigation and he had been repeatedly travelling abroad, which “confirmed apprehensions” that he would flee the country.
The Congress criticised the arrest as evidence of the Narendra Modi government’s “vindictive politics” and an attempt to “distract attention and divert the narrative” from its failures to take action against Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi, and Vijay Mallya.
Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, briefing the media after a Cabinet meeting, said the CBI would explain the details of the case, and that the government did not wish to interfere. “I will only make one observation that... the nature of the evidence available against the offender must speak for itself,” he said.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) General Secretary Ram Madhav said had the government been vindictive, the arrest would have happened in the first year of the Modi government. BJP Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy lauded the CBI for the arrest.
The CBI lodged a first information report (FIR) on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board’s (FIPB’s) clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 3 billion in 2007, when P Chidambaram was finance minister. The agency alleges that Karti had received Rs 1 million for brokering the deal. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also registered a money laundering case.
Last week, P Chidambaram had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, apprehending “continued harassment” to him and his family. In the petition, P Chidambaram had said being the finance minister then, he had granted FIPB approvals in the INX Media case and the Aircel-Maxis case in the “normal course of official business”.
Chidambaram said that in the discharge of his functions, he had “never allowed any member of his family, including his son, or any other person to interfere with or influence the conduct of official business”. He said the CBI and the ED could not “harass” Karti and others, who were totally unconnected with the FIPB approval by issuing repeated summons to them.