Chennai :The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday raided Vasan Eye Care, a leading hospital chain headquartered in Tamil Nadu, and certain companies in which former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram is alleged to have stakes. The raids prompted the Congress leader to accuse the Modi Government of launching a “malicious onslaught” against his family members. It has been alleged that Vasan Eye Care group had acted as a frontal organisation for money laundering through companies floated by Karti, including the Advantage Strategic Company.
The latter company was also linked to the Aircel-Maxis scandal currently being probed by the ED. Four months ago, two directors of the firm were summoned and questioned by the ED after it came to light that the company had paid Rs 26 lakh to Aircel Televentures. According to sources, the ED raids were fallout of investigations launched based on allegations levelled by a Commissioner of Income Tax M. Srinivasa Rao. “In a sworn affidavit filed before the Central Administrative Tribunal in Delhi challenging his transfer, Rao had on June 16 alleged that he was being shunted because he unearthed money laundering through a company linked to Karti,” a source said.
Rao had alleged that a company, JD Group, had once given an interest-free loan of Rs 8.64 crore to Vasan Eye Care group’s promoter Dr A M Arun by cheque and also transferred Rs 40 crore in cash on a “single day” in a “single transaction.” The total black money payment ran into Rs 223 crore, mostly in cash. Rao has claimed that this was indirectly transferred to shell companies in which Karti had stakes when his father was Union Home Minister and later Finance Minister in UPA-I and II regimes. This had come to light during an Income Tax raid conducted on JD Group by Rao and his team.
Rao claimed that he was transferred because he did not give in to “unlawful expectations of higher officials who asked me to go soft on tax evaders and money launderers.” “The IT officer has claimed that Vasan was a frontal company for Karti. He has questioned why the JD Group gave a loan to Vasan Eye Care in the first place and how the Vasan group began to expand massively soon thereafter,” a source said.
The Vasan Health Care Pvt Ltd was incorporated in June 2007 with Dr Arun and his wife Meera holding the shares. In October 2008, the two partially off-loaded their stakes and issued three lakh shares to one V Dwarakanathan at a premium of Rs 100 per share. “Within two days, Dwarakanathan transferred his 1.5 lakh shares to Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd, a firm which was majority held by Ausbridge Holdings and allegedly owned by Karti. This link is vital to the case,” said the source.
Target me directly, says Chidambaram: Meanwhile, as ED conducted raids on his son’s firms, the former Union Minister P Chidambaram issued a statement denying that his family members had any stakes in the dubious companies. Claiming that he was informed about searches on certain firms “allegedly linked to my son,” Chidambaram said, “If the Government wishes to target me, they should do so directly, not harass friends of my son who carry on their own businesses and have nothing to do with politics.” Insisting that no member of his family has any equity or economic interest in any of the raided firms, he said it was up to those companies to deal with the situation. “I condemn the attempt to link them to my son and harass them on that ground,” he said.
According to him, the agenda of the Government is being implemented by an officer of the Enforcement Directorate who has a pending dispute with the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance. “Orders in his case were apparently passed during the term of my predecessor. He met me and wanted me to intervene in his favour. I declined and I told him that I cannot reverse orders that were issued during the term of my predecessor. The change of Government has given him an opportunity to misuse his powers to harass my son and his friends,” Chidambaram alleged.
The Congress leader said he and his family were “prepared to face the malicious onslaught launched by the Government.”