Aircel-Maxis case: CBI seeks custodial interrogation of P Chidambaram, son

A Delhi court has extended P Chidambaram and his son Karti's protection from arrest till November 26

P Chidambaram
Former Union minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram. File photo

The custodial interrogation of former Union minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram and his son Karti was required in the Aircel-Maxis case to reach the truth, the CBI Thursday told a Delhi court which extended till November 26 their protection from arrest.       

CBI's demand to quiz them in custody came a day after Enforcement Directorate, which is probing their role in the money laundering case related to Aircel-Maxis, opposed their protection from arrest and sought custodial interrogation.

In the ED case also, the court has protected them from arrest.

Like ED, the CBI also filed its reply to the anticipatory bail pleas of Chidambarams.

In both the cases, Chidambarams sought time to file rejoinders to the replies given by the probe agencies.

The CBI is probing how Chidambaram, who was the Union finance minister in 2006, granted a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval to a foreign firm, when only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it.

The senior Congress leader's role has come under the scanner of investigating agencies in the Rs 35-billion Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case involving Rs 3.05 billion. 

ED has lodged the cases of money laundering against the two in connection with Aircel-Maxis deal and INX media case.

Both Chidambaram and Karti have denied the allegations levelled against them by the CBI and the ED. 

The CBI and ED cases came for hearing before Special CBI judge O P Saini, who allowed the senior Congress leader and his son to respond to the contentions of the agencies that the duo was "evasive" and "non-cooperative" during the probe.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, appearing for Chidambarams, sought time from the court and also requested it to further extend the relief till next date of hearing.

The CBI and ED told the court that grant of anticipatory bail to the accused persons at this stage would "hinder" the ongoing probe and they would not be able to conclude the investigation in a time bound manner as directed by the Supreme Court.

"The grant of anticipatory bail will further help them in non-cooperation with the probe and misuse of process of law.

"The investigating agency has thus reached to a bona fide conclusion that in absence of custodial interrogation, it will not be possible for it (CBI) to reach the truth of the allegations," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the CBI said.

Mehta also appeared for the ED and took the same ground for cancelling the relief granted to the father and son.

CBI told the court that during the investigation, a strong case has emerged against both the accused persons clearly indicating their involvement in the offence, which it termed as "grave" and "serious".

The investigation regarding some related aspects are still continuing, it said.

It said it had "cogent" and "convincing" evidence, based on which questions were put to both the accused, but they remained evasive and did not cooperate with the probe agency.

"The custodial interrogation is required in order to elicit the information which is in his personal knowledge and cannot be obtained otherwise."

"The present case involves a grave and serious offence that has resulted in an undue and illegal benefit to the accused persons at the cost of public interest and therefore, it is submitted that the anticipatory bail to the accused should be denied," the CBI said.

The agency claimed that Chidambarams, being "highly influential persons", may tamper with the evidence and threaten the prosecution witnesses, if granted anticipatory bail.

CBI's reply came a day after Enforcement Directorate opposed the anticipatory bail plea of the then Union Finance Minister in a related money laundering case, maintaining that his custodial interrogation was necessary as he was evasive and non-cooperative in the probe.

The court also extended till November 26 the interim protection from arrest granted to Chidambarams in the money laundering case after the accused, represented by advocates P K Dubey and Arshdeep Singh, said that they needed time to file a rejoinder in the case.

In its charge sheet filed earlier in the case against former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and others, the CBI alleged that Chidambaram granted FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) approval in March 2006 to Mauritius-based Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of Maxis.

The Maran brothers and the other accused named in the Aircel-Maxis case in the CBI charge sheet were discharged by the special court, which had said the agency had failed to produce any material against them to proceed with the trial.