Aircel Maxis case: Karti Chidambaram ignores summons, ED considers legal options
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is understood to be exploring legal options after politician and businessman Karti Chidambaram continued to brazenly evade summons.
Karti, son of former Union Finance and Home Minister P Chidambaram, has been asked to appear before the ED multiple times to explain certain transactions as part of the agency's investigations into the Aircel Maxis scam. The case is being investigated under the stringent Prevention of Money Laundering Act and is part of the 2G scam probe.
A source told Catch that all options were open, adding that the future course of action would be decided on the legal advice the agency gets. Karti may be taken into custody, but "not soon".
Wednesday, 31 August, was the third time that Karti did not appear before the ED. This third summons specifically asked for a personal appearance.
"It is bizarre how he is asking the ED what is his offence, and not turning up to cooperate in the investigations," a source in the Ministry of Finance said.
"Should he not respond to the summons and answer our queries, instead of posing such questions?" the official asked.
Karti, meanwhile, had told Times of India that "the ED would be in a better position to answer on issues related to the summons issued to him."
Earlier, Karti's mother and senior advocate Nalini Chidambaram had been asked by the Kolkata office of the ED to appear and record her statement in the Saradha Ponzi scheme investigations under the PMLA. She came under the arc of probe after the agency found that she received Rs 1.26 crore in consulting fees from Saradha.
The CBI, too, is probing the Foreign Investment Promotion Board's (FIPB) approval to the Aircel Maxis deal during Chidambaram's tenure as Union Finance Minister. The deal has been marred by allegations of kickbacks, and that Chidambaram gave the approval against FIPB rules.
The money trail
The ED issued the summons after the agency claimed to have traced a sum of $200,000 (approximately Rs 1.34 crore), which Maxis had transferred to Karti's company.
The source said the transactions pertained to a period between 2007 and 2010. The ED had found that Chess Management Services received more than $100,000 from a Maxis group company, Bumi Armada Berhad. Investigators say that Chess Management had also received another $60,000 (Rs 40.3 lakh) from Maxis Mobile Sdn Bhd, and around $35,000 (Rs 23.5 lakh) from Astro All Asia Network.
Interestingly, Astro All Asia Network is one of the companies which was chargesheeted by the ED, along with the Maran brothers - former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran and Sun TV Chief Kalanithi Maran - for routing kickbacks in the Aircel Maxis deal. It is alleged that the DMK leader and former minister Maran had forced Sivasankaran, the Aircel chief, to sell the mobile service provider to Malaysian Maxis.
Another company under the scanner
Chess Management LLC is not the only one of Karti's companies under the scanner. Investigations into the workings of Advantange Strategic Consulting, another company which the investigators say is indirectly controlled by Karti, and is involved in the Aircel Maxis deal, had reportedly revealed huge assets that the company controls through its Singapore subsidiary, according to the ED. Investigators claimed that the company had made investments in resorts, apartments and farms in as many as 13 countries, including the British Virgin Islands.
Finance Ministry sources had earlier told Catch that Ravi Viswanathan, one of the directors in Advantage Strategic Consulting, had told the ED that it was Karti who actually controlled the controversial company.
Viswanathan, who was questioned last year by ED sleuths, is one of the three officials of the company who were asked to join the ongoing probe under PMLA. The ED had also raided premises related to Karti-linked companies, and found 'incriminating evidence'.
In the past, P Chidambaram has rubbished all allegations of corruption against him and his son as being 'driven out of vendetta'. Chidambaram has, reportedly, said that the summons against his son were vague, and that he was already cooperating with the ED.
Karti, too, had denied any wrongdoing, and maintained that his only link to Aircel was that he used its mobile SIM card.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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