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INX MEDIA CASE- INSIGHT

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By Amruta-

INX Media case one of the high profiles money laundering case. The case involves major personalities including Member of Parliament Mr P. Chidambaram, his son Indian Politician Mr Karti Chidambaram, Retired British Executive Mr Peter Mukerjea and his estranged wife Former British Indian Executive Indrani Mukherjea. The case revolves around huge allegations made against Mr P. Chidambaram for irregularities that took place concerning Foreign investment from India. 

SHORT TIMELINE-

  • 15TH MAY 2017- CBI registers FIR alleging irregularities in FIPB clearance to the INX Media. ED also lodges case.
  • 16TH FEBRUARY 2018- CBI arrest Karti Chidambaram at Chennai Airport 
  • 23RD MARCH 2018- Karti gets bail from Delhi High Court 
  • 30TH MAY 2018- Chidambaram moves Delhi High Court seeking anticipatory bail in CBI’s case
  • 23RD JULY 2018- He moves HC for an anticipatory bail in ED’s money laundering case
  • 25TH JULY 2018- Court grants him interim protection from arrest in both the cases
  • 25TH JANUARY 2019- Court reserves judgement n anticipatory bail in both the cases 
  • 11TH JULY 2019- Indrani Mukerjea turns approver in the case
  • 20TH AUGUST 2019- Hc dismisses anticipatory bail pleas of Chidamabaram, declines request to stay the order 
  • 21ST AUGUST 2019- Chidambaram files appeal against HC judgement in the Supreme Court. SC lists the matter for hearing on 23rd August 2019. CBI arrests Chidambaram
  • 22ND AUGUST 2019- Chidambaram produced before a Delhi High Court which sends him to four days CBI custody.
  • 5TH SEPTEMBER 2019- P. Chidambaram was sent to Tihar Jail for a two-week judicial custody
  • OCTOBER 2019- He was again sent to jail up to 17 October after his bail was rejected. 
  • 22ND OCTOBER 2019- Supreme Court granted bail to P Chidambaram against the case registered by the CBI.
  • 4TH DECEMBER 2019- He was given bail after 105 days of custody in Tihar Jail (as ED had arrested him after CBI) 

Where did it all start?

In 2007 Mr Peter and Mrs Indrani Mukherjea co-founded INX Media which was later named as 9x media. Soon the company approached the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) which however now does not exists but earlier it was a national agency of Central Government. The company approached the FIPB for two purposes namely

1. To issue equity shares to non-resident investors

2. Downward Investment 

The Scam-

The company did not, however, receive any permission from the ministry for downward investment by the INX Media in the INX News but paved the way for issuing equity shares to non-resident investors with terms and conditions. The company was permitted to get Rs. 4.62 crores by selling 46% of the shares at the rate of Rs.10 per share each via FDI. But company allegedly generated over Rs. 305 crores of FDI INX Media against the allowed foreign flow of Rs. 4.62 crore by issuing shares to foreign investors at a premium of over Rs. 800 crores. Therefore contrary to the permission,the company had initiated downward investment of 26% in the capital thereby violating the conditions set by FIPB. 

In 2008 a complaint was filed against the INX Media to Investigation Wing of Income Tax (IT) Department about the out of order working of the INX media. The IT Department soon in pursuance of investigation questioned FIPB regarding the same and FIPB as a response shot off a letter questioning the company for the irregularities taking place. While investigations were still in progress Mr Peter and Mrs Indrani Mukerjea approached Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram for advice. They were advised to sought help from Mr Karti Chidambaram son of P. Chidambaram to get their issues resolved. As advised they approached Mr Karti who then asked them on the pretext of investment to pay a huge amount of money in his various companies. Mukerjea’s also issued clarifications to the FIPB’s letter and soon matter was settled without any actions despite such grave nature of the act and company on advice made investments towards Mr Karti. The company applied for fresh proposal on downstream investment which ultimately was granted. Since then Finance ministry kept granting unjustified advantages to the company despite the Revenue Department’s requests for an investigation. To avoid all kinds of suspicion towards Mr Karti, the invoice against the company were raised by Advanced Strategic Consulting Limited instead of Chess Management services which are directly controlled by him. The INX Media despite reporting multiple losses, they sold their balance 30% stake in INX Media which was later named by the new owner as 9X Media by the new buyer. 

The Great Fall-

Serious Frauds Investigation Office: ED Enforcement Directorate at the same time were investigating in a scam of Rs. 900 crore, which was siphoned off by Idrani from INX Media. Several other investigations took place but none of it as such succeeded due to strong influence of P Chidambaram at the Finance ministry. But two important incidents took place which resulted in a huge setback for P. Chidambaram. One the fall of Congress Government and on the other hand Mumbai police arrested Indrani Mukerjea accusing her of murdering Sheena Bora.

Role of Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

 In 2017 ED filed money laundering case against Karti Chidambaram, INX Media and its directors. Later even CBI filed a case against Karti Chidambaram. CBI registered cases under section 120-B r/w 420 IPC, section 8, 13(2) r/w 13(1) of Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 against the accused. In 2018 CBI arrested Karti in a money laundering case, he was accused of receiving money from a media company for using his prestige to manipulate a tax probe against it. In October 2018 the ED attached assets of worth Rs. 54 crore of Karti Chidambaram over various locations with regards to INX Media case.

Accused turns Approver-

Soon Indrani in a desperate need to free herself from the death sentence turned herself as an approver against the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. During this time Chidambaram was already drowning in Aircel-Maxis investigation. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

soon raided P. Chidambaram’s house, concerned Chartered Accountant, and Mr Karti on recording from Indrani Mukerjea. Karti further released on bail contested elections and won Shivganga Seat in the year 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. The CBI’s strong investigation started unveiling specks of dirt of P. Chidambaram and Karti. All the properties and other such unfair practises owned and managed by them were out via investigation. However, both of them denied all kind of accusations made against them. In 2019 Indrani turned approver for the case and Chidambaram’s name was out on record by the Special CBI Judge. Even then he denied having any acquaintance with the approver. However, approver’s testimony itself was in question due to her involvement in murder and scams. Over the period even material pieces of evidence had disappeared. 

Not the 21st time

Chidambaram had got 20 times Anticipatory Bails but on his 21st he was arrested. In the words of Retired Justice Gaur, Delhi High Court it was held as a classic case of Money Laundering. Soon CBI teams successfully arrested P. Chidambaram along with CEO of Niti Ayog, Ministry Officials among others. On 5th September 2019, P. Chidambaram was sent to Tihar Jail for two-week judicial custody and on 3rd October 2019, he was again sent to jail up to 17th October after his bail was rejected. On 22nd October 2019, Supreme Court granted bail to P Chidambaram against the case registered by the CBI. However, he was not released because, by the time he was given bail, the ED had arrested him for further investigation in the case. He was given bail on 4 December 2019, after 105 days of custody in Tihar Jail.