Refuting CBI’s allegation that he has “undisclosed 25 overseas bank accounts” and “assets abroad,” Karti Chidambaram on Monday told the Supreme Court that he owns only one asset abroad which was acquired by transfer of funds through nationalised banks under the RBI’s liberalised remittance scheme (LRS).
Karti, the son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, said that he had acquired all his assets lawfully and the same were recorded in his books of account and disclosed in all his statutory filings, including the income tax returns. However, he said that his family has only one overseas property, which was acquired by transfer of funds through nationalised bank in India under the RBI’s LRS by following due process of law.
“I categorically state that my family has no other overseas property,” he said.
Karti also sought permission to travel to the UK from October 19 to November 13 for his daughter’s admission to Cambridge University.
In his affidavits filed on Monday, Karti contended that he had just one account in UK’s Metro Bank, which was opened on June 1, 2016 and this foreign bank account has not received any “inward remittance” from anyone except his, his wife’s and daughter’s disclosed bank accounts in India. “The transfers were effected under the LRS of the RBI through nationalised banks and were made by scrupulously following the law and rules of the country.
“As a result of my political affiliation (as well as that of my father), I am classified as a ‘politically exposed person’ (PEP) for the purposes of banking in various international jurisdictions and hence am subject to enhanced Know Your Customer norms… The UK has very strict laws governing PEPs in term of opening of bank accounts…,” one of affidavits stated, adding that a sub-account with the same bank was opened later in November 2016.
He said that the only banking activity he conducted during his visit to the UK, post registration of FIR by the CBI related to two accounts that were maintained by him with the Metro Bank, and subsequent access to banking facilities due to unilateral decision taken by the Metro Bank to close the accounts after complying with all statutory and KYC norms.
Holding the CBI responsible for closure of his bank accounts, he said that these accounts have been rendered non-operational as a consequence of a unilateral decision taken by the bank on June 7, 2017 and that too without giving any reasons. “Therefore the aspersions made by the CBI are completely unjustified, and are evidently an attempt to tarnish my name and reputation in the public domain”, apart from the Lookout Circular (LOC) issued to curtail fundamental right to travel aboard, Karti said, adding that the oral statements made by the CBI counsel “ostensibly linking these accounts in the UK to alleged transactions that occurred by certain entities named in the FIR is preposterous and defies logic.
“I have never held any bank account abroad prior to that date, barring the time when I was student in the US and UK between 1989 and 1995,” according to the affidavit.
The CBI had last week again accused Karti of tampering with evidence during his visits abroad this year. The case against Karti pertains to an FIR lodged by the CBI on May 15, alleging irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media, which was then run by Peter Mukherjea and his wife Indrani Mukherjea, for receiving overseas funds to the tune of `305 crore in 2007. While INX Media had approval for foreign investment worth `4.62 crore, it had managed to raise around `305 crore in 2007 through “influence in the finance ministry.” At that time, P Chidambaram was the finance minister, according to the CBI.
The investigative agency had registered the FIR against Karti on May 15 and had issued notice on June 15 asking Karti to appear before the investigating officer on June 29. The investigative agency had then on June 16 issued the LOC.
The LOCs were also issued against the three directors of Advantage Strategic Consulting, the company which had received the kickbacks on behalf of Karti.
The CBI had challenged the Madras High Court order of August 10 which put on hold the implementation of LOC issued by the Bureau of Immigration against the businessman. The HC had stayed the LOC issued against Karti and four others, holding that they were prima facie “unwarranted”.
The SC will hear the matter on Tuesday.