Payment was made to ‘shell company’: Karti Chidambaram led company’s executive claims

Neither CMSPL nor I had any experience in FIPB approvals: Chandravadhan

BCCL
NEW DELHI: A former senior executive at a company co-founded by Karti Chidambaram has deposed that the payment for some “services” it rendered to get the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clear “irregularities” in the INX Media deal was made to a “shell company”.

Sai Chandravadhan was the vice president of legal compliance management at Chess Management Services Pvt Ltd (CMSPL). The “shell company” he referred to, Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL), was allegedly “owned and controlled” by Karti, as per the deposition of two former ASCPL directors on oath before the Enforcement Directorate (ED), as first reported by ET. Interestingly, it was ASCPL, according to Chandravadhan, which paid an "external expert" hired by Chess Management to draft a reply for INX media to get the FDI clearance from the then FIPB.

Peter Mukerjea, then a co-director at INX Media, deposed that CMSPL had told his company to pay `10 lakh to ASCPL for the FIPB-related services rendered by CMSPL. He alleged that this amount was part of a $1million bribe demanded by Karti to obtain clearances from the FIPB.


Karti, the son of former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram, has repeatedly denied any business association with ASCPL. He has described the investigations against him as political vendetta. Chandravadhan’s statement to the ED last year, made under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, is admissible in court. Chandravadhan deposed that neither “CMSPL nor he had any experience in matters relating to FIPB approval”. Consultancy services on foreign direct investment it provided to INX Media were an “exception” as that was the only such project it handled, he claimed, as per his statement accessed by ET. Chandravadhan said he engaged a third-party consultant, a friend of his, to prepare and file the FDI application on behalf of INX Media.

The consultant, Kumar Ganpathy Rao, was paid `66,000 by ASCPL, not Chess Management, as reimbursement of his expenses, Rao and Chandravadhan told the ED. According to Chandravadhan, Karti’s chartered accountant and co-accused in the INX Media case, S Bhaskararaman, had introduced him to Ajay Sharma, the then legal head of INX Media.

The ED claims to be in possession of emails establishing links between Chess Management and ASCPL. One such email was from Chandravadhan to Sharma, enquiring whether INX got an invoice from ASCPL. Chandravadhan’s email describes the invoice received from ASCPL as “their” (CMSPL’s) invoice. Rao, in his testimony to the ED, said while he was engaged by Chess Management, he was paid by ASCPL. He was told by a woman representative of ASCPL that there was an instruction from Chess to reimburse his expenses, he told, as per documents seen by ET. Rao said the scope of his work was merely collecting the information for filing the application and preparing a declaration and the cover letter.
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