Karti facilitated reuse of Project Visa when father Chidambaram was Home Minister: CBI

While Chidambaram was not arraigned as an accused in the case, the CBI has named Karti, his associate Bhaskar Raman and a few others

N ChithraUpdated: Tuesday, May 17, 2022, 10:29 PM IST
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Congress MP Karti Chidambaram | Photo: ANI

Chennai: The CBI on Tuesday conducted simultaneous searches at the premises of former Union Minister P Chidambaram, his son and Lok Sabha MP Karti P Chidambaram and others in 10 locations in the country including Chennai, in connection with an alleged visa scam.

While Chidambaram was not arraigned as an accused in the case, the CBI has named Karti, his associate Bhaskar Raman and a few others. The agency has alleged Karti had facilitated reuse of Project Visa by some Chinese nationals when his father was Home Minister, a decade ago.

Chidambaram hinted that the searches were timed. “This morning, a CBI team searched my residence at Chennai and my official residence at Delhi. The team showed me a FIR in which I am not named as an accused. The search team found nothing and seized nothing. I may point out that the timing of the search is interesting,” he tweeted. The Congress leader was ostensibly alluding to the possibility of his renomination to the Rajya Sabha from Tamil Nadu where biennial polls are due next month, when his current tenure in the Upper House would expire. The DMK has alloted one seat, which it could win, to its ally Congress and Chidambaram is a frontrunner for the re-nomination despite his party’s stated policy of ‘one family, one post’.

According to the CBI FIR, in 2011, a company M/s Talwandi Sabo Power Limited was in the process of establishing a 1,980 MW thermal power plant at Mansa in Punjab and had outsourced the work to a Chinese firm M/s Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation. The agency said as the project was running behind schedule causing huge financial repercussions in terms of penalty, interest on bank loans etc, the company tried to bring in more Chinese persons/professionals to the work site. For this it needed Project Visas over and above the ceiling imposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Vikash Makharia, a company representative, allegedly contacted Karti’s close associate Raman to get the visas. He later submited a request letter in July 2011 to the MHA (Foreigners Division) seeking permission to re-use Project Visas issued to the company. This e-mail was shared with Raman, who forwarded it to Karti. The FIR alleged a sum of Rs 50 lakh was given as illegal gratification after which the following month the company was granted permission to re-use 263 Project Visas.

The agency said constant email communications were exchanged between Vikas, Raman and Karti. In one e-mail Vikas thanked Karti for the permission letter.

According to the CBI, Project Visas were introduced in October 2010 for power and steel sectors and as per rules it cannot be reused. However, deviation in rare and exceptional cases could be considered and granted only with the approval of the Home Secretary.

The agency said there was reason to believe Karti was able to facilitate the reuse of visas by virtue of his father being the Home Minister then.

“There is reason to believe that the then Home Secretary and Home Minister were in the knowledge of the matter of M/s TSPL and work of M/s TSPL was done through them but it is not ascertained at this stage whether P. Chidambaram, the then Home Minister, and the then Home Secretary were in the knowledge of the demand and payment of illegal gratification or not,” the FIR said.

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