NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation
(CBI) has registered a new case of illegal gratification against senior Congress
leader P Chidambaram
's son Karti for allegedly facilitating visa of 250 Chinese nationals after receiving Rs 50 lakh "bribe".
Following this, the CBI conducted coordinated raids on at least 10 premises of Rajya Sabha MP Chidambaram and his son, Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Karti, across multiple locations, including their Delhi's official residence and Chennai house, on Tuesday.
A CBI team visited the official residence of Rajya Sabha MP P Chidambaram at Lodhi Estate in Delhi and conducted searches for around six hours, the officials said.
Soon Karti took to Twitter saying, "I have lost count, how many times has it been?"
His office also confirmed that the CBI is conducting searches at the residences and offices of Karti.
Later, P Chidambaram also tweeted that a CBI team searched his house in Chennai and the official residence in Delhi, during which the search team found and seized nothing. "The team showed me an FIR in which I'm not named as an accused... I may point out that timing of the search is interesting," said Chidambaram.
In the new case, which is an offshoot of an ongoing probe, the CBI has alleged that Karti had received Rs 50 lakh bribe to facilitate the visa of 250 Chinese nationals during the UPA regime for Talwandi Sabo power project in Punjab in 2010-2014, when Chidambaram was the Union home minister, the officials said.
According to sources, the home ministry had allegedly cleared the illegal visa use for Chinese nationals in 2011, in the same month they were applied for.
The Talwandi Sabo Power Plant, which was in the process of establishing a 1980 MW unit at Mansa in Punjab, was outsourced to a Chinese company, Shandong Electric Power Construction Corp (SEPCO). The project was allegedly running behind schedule, so in order to avoid penal action for the delay, Talwandi Sabo Power Limited was trying to bring more Chinese professionals at the site.
This needed project visas over and above the ceiling imposed by the ministry of home affairs. So, the company allegedly approached Karti through his close associates who "devised a back-door way to defeat the purpose of visa ceiling by granting permission to re-use 263 project visas allotted to the Chinese company’s officials", said a source.
It is alleged that payment of crores was done to Karti Chidambaram through a false invoice by a company, which manufactured industrial knives, citing consultancy services and visa-related work.
The CBI got the whiff of the case during its ongoing investigation related to the INX media case, in which Karti is already under probe for allegedly getting Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance for INX media, they said.
Following the scrutiny of the transaction, the CBI had detected the payments worth Rs 50 lakh alleged to be illegal gratification, the officials said.
In connection with this, the searches were conducted at three locations in Chennai, three in Mumbai, and one each in Karnataka, Punjab and Odisha, according to the CBI officials.
Earlier Karti faced CBI and ED investigations for his involvement in alleged corruption and money laundering cases, including helping INX media to get clearance for receiving Rs 305 crore foreign fund.
In 2017, the CBI had conducted raids at the residence of former finance minister Chidambaram and son Karti in connection with criminal misconduct in grant of FIPB approval. At least 14 locations in Chidambaram
's home city of Chennai were searched by the CBI then. And in 2018, the CBI had arrested him in the corruption case. Subsequently he was released on bail. Party defends Chidambaram
Meanwhile, the Congress has come out in strong defence of Chidambaram, saying he is a nationalist and patriot, "whose commitment to the country is unquestionable".
Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala alleged that the CBI was framing the former home and finance minister. "To plant source based preposterous allegations against a former Home Minister & Finance Minister by CBI reflects the lowest ebb in political discourse."
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge alleged the BJP was trying to weaken the Congress by raiding its members.
"Chidambaram is a good lawyer and economist. This is the effect of speeches, debates he participates in. People vocal in Congress are being targeted. They want to bring autocracy in state," said Kharge. (With inputs from agencies)Watch CBI raids P Chidambaram's properties in Delhi