The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has told a Delhi court that it wants to question former finance minister P Chidambaram in custody in the Aircel Maxis money laundering case. The agency today opposed his request for protection from arrest claiming he is not cooperating.
"As long as he is on anticipatory bail, he will not cooperate with investigators and his answers will remain evasive," the Enforcement Directorate said in a written reply.
The court extended interim protection granted to Mr Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram; they cannot be arrested in the case till August 7.
The Enforcement Directorate is investigating the circumstances in which foreign funding was approved for the Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006 by Mr Chidambaram as Finance Minister in the previous Congress-led government.
"...the examination of the applicant is being carried out under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to investigate the larger conspiracy involved in the grant of FIPB approval to the Aircel Maxis deal and also generating of proceed of crime," the directorate said in its reply.
Mr Chidambaram, the agency said, was on May 24 summoned for questioning six days later. "However the applicant chose not to comply...and filed an instant anticipatory bail application before this court," the agency told the court.
Officers claim that when they summoned the senior Congress leader on May 29, giving him another date, June 5, he showed up only after the court granted protection till July 10.
Mr Chidambaram had sought protection from arrest on May 30, a day after the summons. He told the court that all evidence appeared to be documents, which were already with the government and nothing was to be recovered from him.
But the directorate argued that "a strong prima facie case has emerged showing the involvement of the applicant in violation of larger conspiracy is unfolding. The applicant chose to remain evasive in the replies."
The agency said if Mr Chidambaram was given anticipatory bail "it will not be possible to reach the truth."
According to an official, the court was specifically told that "Mr Chidambaram is evasive in his replies as to why the total foreign inflow to the tune of US $ 800 million (Rs 350 crore) was approved by him on 13 March 2006 deliberately and intentionally without raising any objection when he was competent to approve the proposals in which total foreign inflow was upto Rs 600 crore only".
The CBI chargesheet says at the time, Mauritius-based Global Communication Services Holdings, a subsidiary of Maxis, had sought approval for an investment of 800 million dollars in Aircel.
Though a cabinet panel led by the Prime Minister should have cleared the deal, approval was granted by the Finance Minister at the time, said the CBI or Central Bureau of Investigation.
The CBI also alleges that Rs 26 lakh was paid by Aircel Televentures Limited to a company allegedly linked to Karti Chidambaram days after the approval.