The former union home minister and finance minister, senior Congress leader and senior advocate, has been under investigation by the CBI and the ED on charges of abuse/misuse of authority, money laundering and corruption in the cases of Aircel-Maxis and INX Media and has been intermittently questioned by these agencies. These are two different cases and in both of them the prime accused are Mr. Chidambaram and his son Karti. These investigation agencies have been pursuing the father-son duo with determination, compelling the senior lawyer to marshall all his skills, expertise, networking and resources to dodge the law and avoid arrest. While Karti has been arrested earlier by the CBI and is out on bail, Chidambaram has been questioned on several occasions by these agencies, as the law seeks to close in on him. These two cases are entirely different and must be so understood. While the Aircel-Maxis case surfaced in 2011 when Chidambaram was the powerful FM, the INX Media case was revealed by a statement of the jailed Indrani Mukerjea in 2017.
The Aircel Maxis case relates to 2006, and involves serious misuse of power by Chidambaram, when he was the union FM. It pertains to an approval given by the FIPB, now a defunct body which was headed by him, to a Rs.3500 crores investment by Maxis of Malaysia into Aircel, in stark violation of the prevailing guidelines. As per the then rules, the FIPB could approve foreign investment upto Rs.600 crores only and anything above that needed the approval of the CCEA. And in this case it would have needed the approval of the CCS too, which was expected to be unlikely. As per the government files seen by the CBI and the ED in order to hoodwink the law, this massive investment of Rs.3500 crores was shown to be at Rs.180 lacs only and the FM, together with collusive officials, including Ashok Chawla, the former Finance Secretary, illegally approved the investment.
It was a gross and blatant misuse of power. The CBI registered a FIR in 2011 itself, which was not quashed by the Supreme Court and since then, the Chidambarams have been dodging the law. His son was arrested by the CBI in February 2018 in this case and is presently out on bail. With all his legal acumen and expertise, the former FM has managed to evade arrest so far.
In the INX Media case, which also occurred in 2007, when Chidambaram was the FM, it was revealed by the infamous Indrani/Peter Mukerjea duo, that they had paid huge sums to Karti Chidambaram for obtaining FIPB approvals, and condoning major foreign investment violations by them. The FIPB was headed by Chidambaram then. The facts are that against a foreign investment approval of Rs.4.62 crores by the FIPB, which could also not be invested in downstream companies, INX Media brought in a huge sum of Rs.305 crores and also invested it all in prohibited subsidiaries. They then utilised the services of Karti to condone/regularise the illegal investment and not initiate any investigation by the ED, ITD or other agencies. A clear case of quid pro quo has also been established in this case.
In both these cases, though there is direct and damning evidence against Chidambaram and his son and huge assets of theirs have been seized in India and abroad, yet due to Chidambaram being a brilliant, resourceful and extremely well networked senior lawyer, the action against him and his son has been apparently delayed. And the more it is delayed, the greater are the chances that the case will weaken and will ultimately fizzle out. All that he needs to do is to buy time and outwit the present government, hoping that a more amenable party will come to power, which will help him to go scot free. And the chances of that, look to be bright.