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More than a month after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram in the INX Media case, the agency on Friday named 14 people in the charge sheet, including the former finance minister and his son Karti, people familiar with the development said, requesting anonymity.

The CBI charge sheet also named former NITI Aayog CEO and retired IAS officer Sindhushree Khullar, INX Media directors Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, besides Karti’s chartered accountant S. Bhaskar Raman. However, Indrani Mukherjea’s name was later dropped off the charge sheet, as she had turned an approver.

“It was found that the then two directors of a Mumbai-based private media company allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy with the then finance minister, his son (the then director of management services company based in Chennai) and certain then public servants of FIPB unit for getting the said issues settled without any penal action against them, and thereby caused undue pecuniary advantage to the companies in terms of possible fiscal penalty under FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act), which could have been up to three times of the total amount involved," the CBI said in a statement.

“One of the directors of the said media company turned approver and revealed the alleged role played by the then finance minister and his son in according approval to the FDI proposal in the Mumbai-based media company and another news company also based at Mumbai, in lieu of alleged illegal gratification in India and through offshore payments," it added. CBI had arrested Chidambaram, 74, on 21 August. Subsequently, he was sent to judicial custody.

On Tuesday, Chidambaram was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate following a parallel investigation into money-laundering connected to the INX Media case.

A senior official said on condition of anonymity that Chidambaram was “uncooperative" during the probe, and “remained evasive" when he was confronted “with over 450 questions by the CBI" and “six other persons related to the case".

CBI had registered a first information report (FIR) on 15 May 2017 for alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds of 305 crore in 2007, when Chidambaram was the finance minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-1 government.

Meanwhile, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi on Friday reserved its order on a bail plea by Chidambaram. A Delhi high court order of 30 September denied Chidambaram bail.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing CBI, told the apex court that the charge sheet filed in the Supreme Court names 12 people besides Chidambaram and Karti. Opposing the bail vehemently, Mehta said: “We are witnessing an era where persons accused of financial offences are fleeing the country. As a nation, we are facing this problem."

Mehta said India needs to have a “zero-tolerance policy" on corruption, adding that Chidambaram could influence or intimidate witnesses if given bail.

Chidambaram’s counsel Kapil Sibal countered Mehta’s submissions, saying the CBI’s apprehensions that Chidambaram may tamper with evidence or influence witnesses were false and baseless.

While the CBI had registered an FIR in the INX Media case in May 2017 alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance, the ED lodged a money-laundering case in 2018.

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