Friday, October 23, 2020

INX Media Case: Ex-finance Minister Chidambaram denies using his office for personal gains and money laundering

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Congress leader P Chidambaram, arrested in the INX Media money laundering case, on Monday denied in the Delhi High Court the Enforcement Directorate’s claim that he used the office of finance minister for personal gains and laundered the proceeds of crime, saying no material directly or indirectly linking him with the alleged offence has been put to him so far or placed before the court.

Chidambaram said the purpose of ED’s opposition to grant of bail is not to advance the cause of justice but to harm his health which has already suffered severe damage after 75 days of custody since August 21.

The 74-year-old leader made the submissions in a rejoinder filed to the response of the ED on his bail plea in the money laundering case.

The matter was listed for hearing on Monday before Justice Suresh Kait who fixed it for hearing on Wednesday as the lawyers were abstaining from work in view of the clash between advocates and police at Tis Hazari Court complex on November 2.

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The ED, in its written response filed through advocates Amit Mahajan and Rajat Nair, has opposed the bail plea saying the gravity of offences allegedly committed by Chidambaram does not entitle him for the relief.

The probe agency said the contention of the senior Congress leader that no offence is made out against him is “untenable in law” and his plea is liable to be rejected.

In his rejoinder, Chidambaram denied the ED’s claim that this is a case of economic offence which itself constitutes a class apart and is considered to be the gravest offence cutting to very root of purity and probity of public administration.

“It is stoutly denied that Chidambaram used the office of finance minister of the country for personal gains, personally, as well as in connivance with his co-conspirators and has laundered the proceedings of crime to conceal the tainted money,” it said

Chidambaram’s rejoinder, filed through advocate Arshdeep Singh, said no material directly or indirectly linking him with the alleged offence of money laundering has either been put to him so far or been placed on record before the high court.

Chidambaram, who was granted bail by the Supreme Court on October 22 in the INX media corruption case, is lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody in the ED’s money laundering case.

On November 1, the high court while disposing of the interim bail plea of Chidambaram, who was suffering from Crohn’s disease, had directed the Tihar Jail Superintendent to provide him clean and hygienic surroundings and also mineral water, home cooked food and mosquito protection nets and repellants.

The ED, in its response to the bail plea, said the gravity of offences allegedly committed by Chidambaram for which he was being investigated, the brazenness and impunity with which the high office of the country was misused by him for personal gain does not entitle him from seeking any relief from the court.

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The agency said the investigation has resulted in gathering of substantial material by it showing a clear case of money laundering with the involvement of Chidambaram, his son Karti and others.

It said Chidambaram cannot claim that it is only his son Karti who can be at best be alleged to have committed the offence.

“It has come on record that the proceeds of crime were generated due to the act of petitioner (Chidambaram) in granting permissions illegally for gratification collected by Karti Chidambaram at the petitioner’s behest,” the ED said and sought dismissal of the bail plea saying it was devoid of merits.

Chidambaram had earlier sought anticipatory bail in the money laundering case from the high court which dismissed the plea. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court which also refused to grant him the relief.

The ED arrested him in the money laundering case on October 16.

He was arrested by the CBI on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case.

The case was registered by the CBI on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007, during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister.

The CBI on October 18 filed its charge sheet naming Chidambaram and several others as accused in the INX media corruption case.

The trial court took cognisance of the charge sheet on October 21 and subsequently, on October 22, the apex court granted him regular bail in the matter.

Chidambaram has contended in his bail plea that both the CBI and ED case arise out of the same financial transaction and, therefore, there cannot be separate remand for both.

The plea contended that since all the evidence in the case is documentary and is in the custody of investigating agencies, he cannot tamper with it.

On October 16, the ED interrogated Chidambaram in Tihar Jail and then formally arrested him “for the specious reason of being evasive” during questioning, the plea claimed.

The plea has also contended that Chidambaram’s health condition is “fragile” as he is 74 years old and suffers from various ailments, including coronary artery disease.

He has referred to the Supreme Court’s October 22 order granting bail to Chidambaram in the CBI case and said that it has stated there was no evidence of tampering, flight risk and influencing witnesses against Chidambaram in corruption case.

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