Chidambaram, son and Lalu face CBI, IT raids

Day of accountability for the corrupt, says Govt; Cong sees politics of vendetta
Report by: 
Chennai/New Delhi
16 May 2017

Two former Union ministers had to put up with embarrassment today as they faced raids by Central Investigation Agency (CBI) and the Income Tax department. While CBI today carried out searches at several places linked to former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti over alleged favours granted in foreign investment clearance to a firm, INX Media, in 2007, the Income Tax (I-T) department conducted raids in 22 locations in Delhi and adjoining areas on charges of alleged benami deals worth Rs 1,000 crore involving former railway minister Lalu Prasad and others.

Official sources in Delhi said the CBI searches were spread across Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, and Gurugram. The raids were taking place at the Nungambakkam residence of P Chidambaram in Chennai, a senior police official said in Chennai. The agency had on Monday registered a case regarding alleged irregularities in granting the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media, run by its directors Indrani Mukerjea and Peter Mukerjea, in 2007 when P Chidambaram was the Finance Minister. The agency registered the case against INX Media through its director Indrani, Peter, Karti, Chess Management Services (a company of Karti), Advantage Strategic Consulting Limited through its director Padma Vishwanathan. It has levelled the charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, taking gratification by corrupt or illegal means, to influence public servant and criminal misconduct.

Reacting to the raids, the former finance minister alleged that the government was using the CBI and other agencies to target his son. He said FIPB approval was granted in "hundreds of cases." "The government, using the CBI and other agencies, is targeting my son and his friends...The government's aim is to silence my voice and stop me from writing, as it has tried to do in the cases of leaders of opposition parties, journalists, columnists, NGOs and civil society organisations," the senior Congress leader said in a statement in Chennai. "All I will say is, I shall continue to speak and write," he added. Putting up a brave front amid I-T raids, Prasad said he was "not scared at all" and will continue to fight against the "fascist forces". "BJP mein himmat nahi hai ki Lalu ki awaz ko daba sake...Lalu ki awaz dabayenge to desh bhar me karoron Lalu khare ho jayenge...Main gidarbhabhki se nahi darne wala hoon (BJP does not have the courage to stifle my voice...If it tries to silence one Lalu, crores of Lalu will come forward. I am not scared of empty threats)," he said in a series of tweets.

Prasad rapped the BJP in yet another tweet for "sensing an opportunity to destabilise the Grand Alliance government in Bihar" and asserted that the coalition was "intact". "Do not be tempted, the alliance is intact. Many more parties with a common ideology are going to join hands with us. I am not scared of the BJP letting loose the government machinery on me," he wrote on the microblogging website. Reacting to the raids, the BJP today said this was the day of accountability for the corrupt. Defending the searches, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley today said the day of reckoning has come for many and they will be held accountable for their misdeeds. Jaitley said the tax department or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) do not act unless there is a "substantial basis and a reason to suspect" that there is a tax evasion or a crime has been committed. "Now people in high positions acquiring assets through shell companies is not a small matter and I think the day of reckoning has come for many, they will all be held accountable," Jaitley told newspersons here.

Union minister Piyush Goyal rejected Chidambaram's charge that he was being targeted for his columns critical of the government and claimed that the issue was why beneficiaries of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) gave "money to firms owned by his son". "The former Union finance minister's columns did not exactly set the Yamuna on fire," Goyal told newspersons. Retaliating against former finance minister's allegations of the Centre targeting him and his son Karti under the pretence of raids, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said:  "Cannot expect anything else from Chidambaram. He is accountable for the property his son holds and will have to answer to the CBI and cooperate with their procedures."

The Congress today said that none of its leaders or that of the opposition would be cowed down by the politics of "revenge and vendetta" which had "become the DNA of this BJP government". The party accused the BJP of being blinded by revenge to target its opponents and said that it would continue to expose the saffron party before the people. The AICC in-charge of communications, Randeep Surjewala said, "The truth is that revenge has become the DNA of the BJP government."  "We want to reiterate that neither P Chidambaram, nor any Congress leader or any other leader of opposition, would be deterred or cowed down from fear of the politics of revenge and vendetta," Surjewala said. He, instead, accused the BJP and its leaders of being corrupt as he highlighted the alleged scams involving top party leaders holding ministerial positions in this government. Surjewala wondered whether the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh was corruption and asked why the Modi did not take action against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan whose name allegedly cropped up in the scam. He claimed that Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj allegedly helped people like Lalit Modi who escaped from the country and were wanted by investigative agencies for alleged money laundering.