The CBI today told the Delhi High Court that the Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) officials have acted in a “hurried manner” to facilitate a woman, related to former union minister P Chidambaram, to allegedly grab a hotel in Tamil Nadu. Justice Mukta Gupta was further told that the officials of a public sector bank had gone ahead with the auction of the Tirupur-based hotel ‘Comfort Inn’ as the then finance minister’s family members wanted to acquire it. The court was hearing a plea filed by K Kathirvel, a doctor by profession who was running the hotel in partnership with his associates, including Padmini, sister of Chidambaram’s wife Nalini. The probe agency in its affidavit, filed in response to the plea, has said, “Normally, in other cases the bankers usually wait for the final order of the higher courts (if it is pending). In this case, it is suspected that the bankers might have acted in favour of Padmini Sivasubramaniam (since dead) based on the pressure at the head office level.” It has alleged that “IOB officials had acted in hurried manner within a day or two to facilitate Padmini Sivasubramaniam in acquiring the hotel” and added that “opportunity was not given to the complainant in the present case”. The CBI said on basis of its findings, it had registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) on November 29 after obtaining approval from the competent authority to look into these aspects. “The enquiry is at the crucial stage of finalisation to unearth the veracity of the allegations/averments mentioned in the complaint,” the agency said and sought time to file their detail report after completion of the investigation. Agreeing with the CBI’s request, the court fixed the matter for May 3 next year.
The agency also alleged in its affidavit that the bank officials on May 6, 2008 along with the bidder took possession of the hotel forcefully. Kathirvel, through his counsel Yatinder Chaudhary, has alleged in his plea that he had filed a complaint with the CBI in September 2016 against Chidambaram, his family members and top officials of the IOB for allegedly grabbing his hotel, but the agency had not yet taken any step. The petitioner has said he had filed the complaint with the CBI director after the CBI’s Tamil Nadu unit showed reluctance to entertain it. According to his complaint, in 2007, the ‘Comfort Inn’ hotel in Tirupur, in which he was a partner, was “grabbed” by them with the help of the top management of the IOB.
The hotel was worth more than Rs 10 crore and had a loan due of Rs 2.5 crore with the IOB which had declared the loan as a non-performing asset and announced an auction, the complaint has said. Kathirvel had said he had approached the Madras High Court and later the Debt Recovery Tribunal, besides paying Rs 64 lakh to the IOB to avoid an auction and claimed that the bank had promised cancellation of the auction. But later, the bank cheated him and conducted a “farce auction” and allotted the hotel to Padmini at a very “cheap” price of Rs 4.5 crore, he had alleged.