The premises of two top opposition leaders, P Chidambaram and Lalu Prasad, were on Tuesday raided by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Income Tax (I-T) officials with Karti Chidambaram accused of getting pay-offs for helping a media company get Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance, while the former Bihar chief minister was accused of ‘benami’ land deals – actions the opposition denounced as vendetta by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led federal government.
The day began with raids by the CBI in New Delhi, Chennai, Gurugram and Karaikudi in Tamil Nadu, while the I-T raided 22 locations in Delhi and Gurugram on a number of premises said to be owned by Lalu and kin.
The CBI raided the residence of Chidambaram and his son Karti in Nungambakam in Chennai, after registering a first information report (FIR) on Monday in which it was alleged that his son could have benefited to the tune of Rs30.5 million for helping in the clearance of an FIPB proposal of media company INX Ltd when his father was at the helm in the North Block.
The CBI report alleged that invoices for approximately Rs30.5 million were raised by the INX Ltd in favour of companies in which Karti was having ‘sustainable interests’ either directly or indirectly.
The FIPB clearance was given to Mumbai-based INX Media (now called 9X Media) when it was run by Peter and Indrani Mukherjea, and Chidambaram was then the federal finance minister.
The FIR does not mention the name of Chidambaram, though it states that he had cleared the FIPB approval for Rs40.62 million Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the FIPB meeting on May 18, 2007.
Both Chidambaram and his son denied there was any misconduct on their part and said the whole action was aimed at “muzzling” the voice of Chidambaram senior, who has been writing against the federal government.
Chidambaram said FIPB clearance is given in hundreds of cases and there is no allegation against officials, who are members of the FIPB, or against him.
Besides Karti, those named in the FIR include INX director Indrani Mukherjea and her husband Peter Mukherjea, both accused in the Sheena Bora murder case, and some unknown officials of the ministry.
In the other case, the I-T department conducted raids at 22 places in and around Delhi in connection with alleged ‘benami’ property deals allegedly to the tune of Rs10 billion involving Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad.
Besides the RJD chief, the IT raids were also carried out on the premises of party MP PC Gupta’s residence as well as several businessmen and real estate agents in Delhi and Haryana’s Gurugram and Rewari.
The raids started around 3am on Tuesday, in which over 100 officials were involved.
The IT department’s action comes in the wake of the allegations made by former Bihar deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.
Sushil Modi has accused Lalu and his children – Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, Health Minister Tej Pratap Yadav and Rajya Sabha Parliamentarian Misa Bharti – of being involved in corrupt land deals.
Meanwhile, as part of its raids the CBI raided the Worli home of Mukerjea and his wife Indrani.