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ED summons Karti Chidambaram in PMLA probe

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NEW DELHI, Dec 13: Congress MP Karti Chidambaram has not deposed before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for questioning in a money laundering probe linked to alleged irregularities in the issuance of visas to 263 Chinese nationals in 2011 and dubbed the case “most bogus”.

The 52-year-old legislator from the Sivaganga Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu was summoned by the central agency to appear this week at its office here and record his statement in the case being probed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

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The MP is understood to have informed the ED that he was occupied with the ongoing Parliament session.

The 2022 ED case pertains to allegations of Rs 50 lakh being paid as kickbacks to Karti and his close associate S Bhaskararaman by a top executive of Vedanta group company Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd. (TSPL), which was setting up a power plant in Punjab, according to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) FIR.

The money laundering case stems from the CBI complaint.

Karti told PTI that the case was “most bogus” and his legal team will take it forward.

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“There are three categories of cases foisted on me: bogus, more bogus and most bogus. This is category three. It will be dealt by my lawyers,” he said.

The CBI had last year raided the premises of the Chidamabram family and arrested Bhaskararaman even as Karti was questioned by it.

As per the CBI charges, the work for setting up the power project was being executed by a Chinese company and was running behind schedule.

A TSPL executive had sought re-issuance of project visas for 263 Chinese workers for which Rs 50 lakh allegedly exchanged hands, according to the CBI FIR.

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The agency has alleged that Bhaskararaman was approached by Vikas Makharia, the then associate vice president of TSPL, for the reissue of project visas for the Chinese workers working at the Mansa-based power plant.

The CBI FIR alleged that Makharia approached Karti through his “close associate/front man” Bhaskararaman, the officials said.

“They devised a back-door way to defeat the purpose of ceiling (maximum of project visas permissible to the company’s plant) by granting permission to reuse 263 project visas allotted to the said Chinese company’s officials,” it was alleged.

Project visas were a special facility that was introduced in 2010 for the power and steel sector for which detailed guidelines were issued during P Chidambaram’s tenure as the home minister but there was no provision of re-issue of project visas, the FIR alleged.

“As per prevalent guidelines, deviation in rare and exceptional cases could be considered and granted only with the approval of the home secretary. However, in view of the above circumstances, the deviation in terms of reuse of project visas is likely to be approved by the then Home Minister…,” it further alleged.

Karti had said in the past that this case was a “harassment and witch hunt against him” and an attempt to target his father (senior Congress leader P Chidambaram) through him.

The MP had said he was “certain that he never facilitated even a single Chinese national in their visa process, let alone 250.”

This is the third money laundering case against Karti with the INX Media and Aircel-Maxis cases being probed by the ED for some years now. (PTI)

 

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