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Chidambaram confronted with co-accused, CBI tells court: INX Media Case

CBI Monday asserted in a Delhi Court that former finance minister P Chidambaram has been confronted with a co-accused in the INX Media corruption case and evidence has emerged from exchange of their e-mails during the investigation.

“He has been confronted with one of the co-accused. The accused is to be confronted with some other accused persons as well. It is also submitted that certain files have to be shown concerning transaction of INX Media Pvt Ltd,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar.

Although during the hearing for CBI”s custodial interrogation of Chidambaram, the name of the co-accused confronted with him was not divulged, officials from the agency later identified the official as former NITI Aayog CEO Sindhushree Khullar.

In the court, the Solicitor General submitted that in the probe, some information about the role of the accused has been received from sister agencies (including ED) which are being scrutinised and are needed to be put up to Chidambaram for the investigation.

He said numerous e-mails, which are to be correlated with other documents, have come to the knowledge of the CBI.

Mehta also referred to the alleged payments of USD 5 million and USD 4.5 million to Chidambaram and said that the Letters Rogatory (LRs) have been sent to five countries — Britain, Switzerland, Bermuda, Mauritius and Singapore. LRs are a formal request from a court to a foreign court for certain judicial assistance.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, opposed the CBI plea seeking extension of custody and said there was no document in support of the alleged payments to the accused.

Terming the investigation by the CBI as “clouded”, Sibal said the agency has not disclosed the name of any other co-accused to whom he was confronted and to whom he is to be further confronted.

“During the police custody remand of the accused, he has not been asked with regard of this payment. He has not been asked about the bank accounts. He said there is no evidence for allegation regarding the payments of 5 million dollars and 4.5 million dollars,” Sibal said.

Mehta also told the court about the statement of Indrani Mukerjea, a co-accused who recently turned approver in the case, and about bundle of e-mails. “These e-mails are to be correlated with the documents which have come to the notice of the CBI.”

At the outset, Mehta and Additional Solicitor General K N Natrajan, both appearing for CBI, said there was sufficient ground for extension of Chidambaram”s custodial interrogation as he was confronted with a co-accused during the interrogation from August 23-26.

“We need five days of custody of Chidambaram as the confrontation with co-accused will continue to unearth larger conspiracy,” Mehta contended without divulging the name of the co-accused.

He said the investigation of Enforcement Directorate (ED) is going on simultaneously and CBI has received information from it.

On being asked by the judge as to what CBI has done in last four days, the agency placed before the court relevant records.

Mehta said it was necessary to confront Chidambaram with regard to relevant e-mails and it was absolutely relevant to go into the roots of the issue.

“Certain documents and evidence have emerged which need to be confronted and probed,” he argued.

He said the ED has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in the money laundering case and has shared evidence with the CBI regarding which further interrogation is required.

Sibal opposed Mehta referring to documents filed by the ED.

After speaking to Chidambaram for two minutes, Sibal said in the previous remand application, there was a mention of USD 5 million and not a single document was put to him during these four days.

He said the case cannot be sensationalised, and not a single question with regard to shell companies as also bank accounts has been asked to Chidambaram.

He claimed that questions regarding the e-mails were already asked and Chidambaram has answered them.

“There has been 26 hours of questioning. Still nothing asked on all these issues,” he said, adding that he wants CBI to put correct facts before the court.

“At least the process of investigation should be fair,” Sibal said, maintaining that the agency should show the documents relied by it in the court.

The Solicitor General then said: “There is prima facie evidence to link the accused with USD 5 million. We are awaiting response on LRs from the five countries,” Mehta told the court.

To this, Sibal replied, “You cannot keep him (Chidambaram) in custody till you get an answer to the LRs.”

Mehta said, “We sent the LRs long back. I”m not saying that I am seeking remand awaiting the LR.”

Sibal said an accused cannot be put in custody till the investigators get the evidence and asked the agency to show basis of allegation of USD 5 million against Chidambaram.

Chidambaram”s wife Nalini and son Karti were also present in the court.

A battery of lawyers including advocates Padmini Singh, V K Sharma appeared for CBI.

Chidambaram, 73, was arrested by the CBI on August 21 from his Jor Bagh residence. He was earlier produced before the court on August 22 and was remanded to four-day CBI custody.

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