Chidambaram, other accused have assets across continents, ED tells SC

Accusing former finance minister P Chidambaram of trying to tamper with evidence in the INX Media case with co-conspirators by selling foreign property and closing bank accounts, the Enforcement Directorate told the Supreme Court on Monday that custodial questioning was necessary to complete its probe.

In an affidavit, the agency told the SC that the Congress leader and other accused had bank accounts and properties in Argentina, Austria, British Virgin Islands, France, Greece, Malaysia, Monaco, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Spain and Sri Lanka and transactions were routed through shell companies set up for this purpose.

“Apart from a strong case being in existence for arresting the accused, there are further more reasons to pray for rejection of the present anticipatory bail. It is found that the accused and his co-conspirators are not only trying to tamper/destruct evidence but are influencing witnesses. It is submitted that investigation has reached a very crucial stage where evidence requires to be protected and preserved and witnesses are insulated from the influence of the accused who are high and mighty,” the affidavit said.

It also hinted that Chidambaram’s son Karti was in line to be arrested as the ED has approached the SC against a Madras HC order giving him protection.

Countering the submission of Chidambaram’s lawyers that he had cooperated in the probe, the ED said the former minister was “completely evasive and non-coperative” when summoned for questioning. The anti moneylaundering agency said based on the “cogent evidence” in its possession, it believed Chidambaram “directly and otherwise was connected with proceeds of crime” and was guilty of the serious offence of money laundering.

“It has come on record of the investigation conducted so far that proceeds of the crime, as deposited in a web of shell companies, were used for making deposits in various benami bank accounts and making benami investments in movable and immovable assets both in India and mainly outside India either in the name of shell companies or in the name of close confidants of the petitioner-accused and his coconspirators whose relationship can be pointed out from the probe papers,” it said.

The agency said the need to arrest and interrogate Chidambaram was based on evidence and it would be a serious miscarriage of justice if the agency was not permitted to unearth a well-crafted scheme of money laundering devised by the accused along with his close confidants.