New Delhi: Congress MP Karti Chidambaram on Saturday appeared before the Enforcement Directorate for his questioning in a money laundering case linked to the issuance of visas to some Chinese nationals in 2011, official sources said.
The ED case stems from a CBI complaint.
The agency recorded the statement of the 52-year-old MP from the Sivaganga Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu, under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Karti had earlier said the ED probe was a “fishing and roving” enquiry and that he had earlier submitted documents to the agency. He sought more time to collect documents as he skipped appearances on December 12 and December 16.
The CBI, last year, raided the premises of the Chidambaram family and arrested S Bhaskararaman, a close associate of Chidambaram.
The ED case pertains to the allegations of Rs 50 lakh being paid as kickbacks to Karti and Bhaskararaman by a top executive of Vedanta group company Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd. (TSPL), which was setting up a power plant in Punjab, according to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) FIR.
The work for setting up the power project was being executed by a Chinese company and was running behind schedule, according to the CBI charges.
A TSPL executive had sought re-issuance of project visas for 263 Chinese workers for which Rs 50 lakh allegedly exchanged hands, according to the CBI FIR.
The agency has alleged that Bhaskararaman was approached by Vikas Makharia, the then associate vice president of TSPL, for the reissue of project visas for the Chinese workers working at the Mansa-based power plant.
The CBI FIR alleged that Makharia approached Karti through his “close associate/front man” Bhaskararaman, the officials said.
“They devised a back-door way to defeat the purpose of the ceiling (maximum of project visas permissible to the company’s plant) by granting permission to reuse 263 project visas allotted to the said Chinese company’s officials,” it was alleged.
Project visas were a special facility that was introduced in 2010 for the power and steel sector for which detailed guidelines were issued during P Chidambaram’s tenure as the home minister but there was no provision for the re-issue of project visas, the FIR alleged.
“As per prevalent guidelines, deviation in rare and exceptional cases could be considered and granted only with the approval of the home secretary.
However, given the above circumstances, the deviation in terms of reuse of project visas is likely to be approved by the then Home Minister.,” it further alleged.
Karti had said in the past that this case was a “harassment and witch hunt against him” and an attempt to target his father (senior Congress leader P Chidambaram) through him.
The MP had said he was “certain that he never facilitated even a single Chinese national in their visa process, let alone 250.”
This is the third money laundering case against Karti with the INX Media and Aircel-Maxis cases being probed by the ED for some years now.