In another setback for former finance minister P Chidambaram, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has obtained production warrant from the special court of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for his custodial interrogation in the INX Media case.
The Special Judge on Friday issued a warrant following ED plea seeking Chidambaram’s custody, and ordered that the former minister be produced in the court on October 14. The former minister is in Tihar in connection with a corruption case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Production warrant is issued if an accused in a trial or a witness is already in prison. A trial judge can issue a warrant for a prisoner to be produced before the court. Typically, a warrant is followed by arrest.
The ED had in the past one month, recorded statement of about 13 witnesses related to the case, according to an official. K V K Perumal, who worked as private secretary to Chidamabaram when he was finance minister, was among the witnesses. Perumal was quizzed twice by the probe agency in the recent past. Earlier this week, son Karti Chidamabram was also questioned on the findings of the agency. He will be summoned again on the matter, the official added.
ED believes an organised group of individuals was behind the money trail, kickbacks, parking funds abroad and creating tainted assets.
“We have crucial findings against him (Chidambaram) which would be a breakthrough for the case,’’ an official said. Chidambaram's custodial interrogation was required to get answers to certain questions for effective probe, he pointed out.
The warrant comes after the Delhi High Court refused bail to Chidambaram in the matter.
Sources said the witnesses’ statement indicated ‘’serious, active and key role of Chidamabram and his close associates’’. The probe agency has also come across more than 10 properties overseas including in London and Spain, where both father and son are beneficial owners. The agency is learnt to have approached its foreign counterparts in six countries to gather further details of the property transactions. The agency has also unearthed several shell firms in connection with these transactions, the official quoted above said.
The INX Media group got its FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) approvals in 2007-08. The deal is being probed by the ED and the CBI on charges of money laundering and corruption respectively. The FIPB was scrapped by the Modi administration in 2017.