Uncovering Links Between Karti Chidambaram And Firms That Got INX 'Payoffs'

An NDTV investigation has found that Karti Chidambaram does have links to at least three of the companies named by investigating agencies as having received kickbacks from INX Media

INX Media case: Delhi court sends Karti Chidambaram to CBI custody for five days

New Delhi: Stung by allegations of corruption, the Congress has hit back claiming Karti Chidambaram, the son of Congress leader P Chidambaram, had no links to the companies named by investigating agencies as having received kickbacks from INX Media. The CBI has alleged payments of over Rs 3 crore to Karti; in exchange, they claimed, his father, the then Finance Minister, used his influence to legalise irregularities made by INX Media.

An NDTV investigation has found that Karti Chidambaram does have links to at least three of those companies.

Documents purportedly gathered by investigating agencies show invoices to three companies being raised by INX Media in favour of Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Ltd (which includes one for its Singapore subsidiary) for a total amount of Rs 58 lakh. The reasons range from management consultancy to advance for creation of audio/visual content.

Defence lawyer and senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told NDTV that "Karti Chidambaram has never been at any point of time and is not a shareholder or director of Advantage".

Regulatory filings show this is correct. The directors (and majority shareholders) of Advantage are Ravi Viswanathaan, Padma Viswanathan and CBN Reddy.

Karti Chidambaram, however, was the owner of Advantage via another company, Ausbridge Holdings Pvt Ltd.

Ausbridge, incorporated in 2006, had Karti Chidambaram as its majority shareholder from 2006 to 2011. The firm bought a majority stake (66.7%) in Advantage in 2010, making Karti the owner of Advantage for two financial years, 2010-12.

In a telephonic interview to NDTV in 2016, Karti Chidambaram said, "I was an indirect shareholder (of Advantage) very briefly, for 11 months or so".

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Additionally, Northstar Software Solutions Pvt Ltd is alleged by the CBI to have received gratification of Rs 60 lakh from INX Media in September 2008.

This company too has numerous threads linking it to the former finance minister's son, regulatory filings show.

One of the directors of Northstar Software is CBN Reddy, who occupied that post since its inception in 2007 until 2014, the last year for which company documents are available.

Reddy has also been a director in Advantage Strategic Consulting since 2007 until the last filing in 2015, overlapping with the period during which Karti was the indirect owner of the company (Advantage).

Regulatory filings throw up another link, via a company called Kriya FMCG, incorporated in 2002, in which Karti Chidambaram's wife was a founder director, who along with his daughter had a majority stake. In September 2008, they transferred that stake to CBN Reddy. Two weeks later, Kriya FMCG and Mr Reddy picked up 50% shares in Advantage.

The only company for which there is yet no discernible proof of a link to Karti Chidambaram is Geben Trading Ltd, shown as having a received a payment of $300,000 (Rs 1.36 crore at 2008 rates) from INX Media, on September 26, 2008 for "creation/acquisition of media content".

Geben, incorporated in British Virgin Islands, is shown in the INX invoice as having an office in Athens, Greece. Online research shows that the Registrar of Companies in British Virgin Islands has cancelled its registration in 2013 due to non-payment of annual fees.