Visa scam case: Karti Chidambaram skips CBI probe, likely to appear before agency on Thursday
Congress MP Karti Chidambaram did not appear before the CBI on Wednesday to join the investigation into an alleged scam pertaining to issuance of visas to 263 Chinese nationals in 2011 when his father P Chidambaram was the home minister, officials said. They said he is likely to join the investigation on Thursday. A special court had ordered Karti Chidambaram to join the CBI investigation within 16 hours of his arrival from the UK and Europe where he had gone with permission from it and the Supreme Court.
Messages and calls to the Congress MP seeking his statement on the appearance before the CBI remained unanswered.
The case pertains to allegations of Rs 50 lakh being paid as bribe to Karti and his close associate S Bhaskararaman by a top executive of Vedanta group company Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd. (TSPL), which was setting a power plant in Punjab, the CBI FIR said.
The agency has already taken Bhaskararaman in custody in connection with the case.
According to the CBI, the work for setting up the power project was being executed by a Chinese company and was running behind schedule.
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.
Karti Chidambaram has denied all allegations and said "if this is not harassment, not a witch-hunt, then what is."
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Karti had said, "I am heading back home today, as was planned when I left 2 weeks ago for a work/ family-visit trip to UK and Europe. It does not intimidate me that the central government is once again using its agencies to accuse me of a malicious and completely fabricated charge."
"Previously, the agencies have gone after me based on the statement of an undertrial murder suspect. Now, they are basing their bogus charges on the alleged actions of a deceased person, whom I have never met. I intend to continue to fight every one of their motivated attempts to target my father through me," he said.
The MP said, "For what it's worth, however, I firmly state that I am not associated with this visa issue directly, indirectly, vicariously or even telepathically! The allegations against me by the CBI are ludicrous, to say the least. I categorically deny all of them."
The agency has alleged that Bhaskararaman was approached by Vikas Makharia, the then associate vice president of TSPL, for the reissue of project visas to 263 Chinese workers working at the Mansa-based power plant.
The CBI FIR, which contains the findings of the investigating officer who probed the PE, has 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 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 type of visa 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 of reissue of such travel documents, 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, in view of 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.
The CBI in its FIR on May 14 has named as accused Karti, Bhaskararaman, Makharia, Talwandi Sabo Power Limited (TSPL), and the Mumbai-based Bell Tools Limited through which bribes were allegedly routed.
The case was registered under IPC sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 477A(falsification of accounts) and sections 8 and 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, they said.
It alleged that the payment of the bribe was routed from TSPL to Karti and Bhaskararaman through the Mumbai-based Bell Tools Ltd with payments camouflaged under two invoices raised for consultancy and out-of-pocket expenses for works related to visas for the Chinese workers.
Makharia had later thanked Karti and Bhaskararaman on email, it added.