Congress Leader Chidambaram Gets Bail in Money Laundering Case

P. Chidambaram. Photo: Congress
P. Chidambaram. Photo: Congress

After spending more than 100 days in jail, Congress leader P. Chidambaram was released today (December 4) when the Supreme Court granted him bail in the INX Media money laundering case.

The former India minister in the Congress government spent 105 days in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. The court order specifies that Chidambaram will not be allowed to travel without taking formal permission and he will be available for questioning. He is also not permitted to contact witnesses and issue statements on the case.

Earlier, he was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case and was granted bail by the Supreme Court on October 22. However, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested him on October 16 in the money-laundering case.

Congress believes that PM Narendra Modi’s government is vindictive and it tends to harass its political opponents such as Chidambaram. “Mr. P. Chidambaram’s 106-day incarceration was vengeful and vindictive. I’m glad that the Supreme Court has granted him bail. I’m confident that he will be able to prove his innocence in a fair trial,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted today.

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Earlier Chidambaram was denied bail because it was alleged that he has not been fully cooperating with the investigating agencies in the INX Media case in which his son, Karti Chidambaram, has allegedly received kickbacks in exchange for illegally allowing the TV media company to receive foreign funds amounting to Rs. 305 crore in 2007.

The High Court order had stated that prima facie, the “petitioner appears to be the kingpin of the entire scam” and has not cooperated with the investigation. “Magnitude and enormity of material produced dis-entitle him from any pre-arrest bail,” the court order had said.

The court order added that economic offences have to be dealt with iron hands. “Investigating agencies’ hand cannot be tied up in such a massive economic offence.”

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During the hearing, the ED contended that the companies in which the corruption money was transferred are directly or indirectly controlled by Chidambaram’s son Karti, and they have a reason to believe that the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval was granted to INX Media on his son’s intervention.

Reports suggest that various anti-corruption agencies were investigating Chidambaram’s role in the Rs. 3,500-crore (US$ 500 million approximately) Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case. It was during his tenure as finance minister in the Congress government that clearances from the FIPB were given to the two companies.

First, the CBI had registered an FIR in the INX Media case on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance. Later, in 2018, the ED had lodged the money laundering case.

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Rakesh Raman