New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) Thursday said it has attached assets worth Rs 54 crore of Karti Chidambaram, son of former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in India, Spain and the UK in connection with a money laundering case related to INX Media, an action termed "bizarre and outlandish" by him.
The central probe agency issued a provisional order under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for attachment of agricultural land and bungalow in Kodaikanal and Ooty in Tamil Nadu and a Rs 16-crore flat in south Delhi's posh Jorbagh locality which is in the name of Karti and his mother Nalini. Karti, the ED said, has a 50 per cent share in this property.
In the United Kingdom, the ED attached a Rs 8.67-crore cottage and house in Somerset (in the name of ASCPL) and a tennis club valued at over Rs 14.57 crore located in Barcelona, Spain, as part of the same order.
Reacting to the order, Karti tweeted, "A bizarre and outlandish provisional attachment order which is not based on law of facts but on crazy conjectures. This is meant only to grab headlines". He said the order will not withstand judicial scrutiny and review and that he will approach the appropriate legal forum.
A statement issued by Karti's advocate said the ED order is "exparte and based on the alleged transactions of companies of which my client, Karti P Chidamabarm, is neither a shareholder nor a director." "It (order) is subject of confirmation by the Adjudicating Authority and a further appeal to the Appellate Authority. The attachment order will be contested by my client Karti P Chidambaram," it said.
The ED also ordered attachment of fixed deposits worth Rs 90 lakh, kept in a Chennai bank, in the name of Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Limited (ASCPL). The assets are in the name of Karti and ASCPL, the firm allegedly linked to him, the agency said. "The attached assets collectively amount to Rs 54 crore," the ED statement said.
"Investigation conducted so far shows that for FIPB approval, Peter and Indrani Mukerjea met the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram so that there was no hold up or delay in their application. P Chidambaram asked for his son's business interests to be kept in mind. ED identified payments of Rs 3.09 crore by Peter Mukerjea to ASCPL and associated entities controlled by Karti P Chidambaram through manipulated debit notes.
"During investigation, it was admitted that debit notes were raised on the directions of Karti Chidambaram to show some transaction which in fact did not occur," the agency alleged. It said the money so received by associated entities was channelled back into ASCPL.
"The funds received by ASCPL were invested and ASCPL also purchased shares of Vasan Health Care. A part of these shares was sold at a profit of nearly Rs 41 crore. ASCPL also earned Rs.18.49 crore from sale of shares in another company for an amount of Rs 29.49 crore. These funds arising from sale of laundered property is also property involved in money laundering," it said.
Officials said they will get issued Letters Rogatories (judicial requests) from a competent court for legal formalisation of the attachment of the foreign assets after they were provisionally attached Thursday under section 5 of the PMLA.
The ED had registered a PMLA case in this deal on the basis of a CBI FIR and had alleged that irregularities took place in the FIPB clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when his father P Chidambaram was the Union finance minister. The agency had grilled Karti in this case in the past.
It had registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), the ED's equivalent of a police FIR, against the accused named in a CBI complaint, including Karti, INX Media and its directors Peter and Indrani Mukerjea.