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CBI to question Karti Chidambaram in Chinese visa scam case today

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New Delhi, May 25: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has summoned Karti Chidambaram to join the probe in connection with a fresh case allegedly helping Chinese nationals getting visas by flouting rules.

Karti Chidambaram

Karti, who has gone on a trip to the UK and Europe with the permission of the Supreme Court and a special CBI court, returned on Tuesday.

According to the special CBI court's order, he has to join the CBI investigation within 16 hours of his return.

The case pertains to allegations of Rs 50 lakh being paid as bribe to Karti and his close associate S Bhaskararaman by a top executive of Vedanta group company Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd. (TSPL), which was setting a power plant in Punjab, the CBI FIR said.

According to the CBI, the work for setting up the power project was being executed by a Chinese company and was running behind schedule.

A TSPL executive had sought re-issuance of project visa for 263 Chinese workers for which Rs 50 lakh allegedly exchanged hands, according to the CBI FIR.

Karti Chidambaram has denied all allegations and said " if this is not harassment, not a witch hunt, then what is."

In a statement issued on Tuesday, he said, "I am heading back home today, as was planned when I left 2 weeks ago for a work/ family-visit trip to UK and Europe. It does not intimidate me that the central government is once again using its agencies to accuse me of a malicious and completely fabricated charge."

"Previously, the agencies have gone after me based on the statement of an undertrial murder suspect. Now, they are basing their bogus charges on the alleged actions of a deceased person, whom I have never met. I intend to continue to fight every one of their motivated attempts to target my father through me," he said.

The MP said, "For what it's worth, however, I firmly state that I am not associated with this visa issue directly, indirectly, vicariously or even telepathically! The allegations against me by the CBI are ludicrous, to say the least. I categorically deny all of them."

The agency has alleged that Bhaskararaman was approached by Vikas Makharia, the then associate vice president of TSPL, for the reissue of project visas for 263 Chinese workers working at the Mansa-based power plant.

The CBI FIR, which contains the findings of the investigating officer who probed the PE, has alleged that Makharia approached Karti through his "close associate/front man" Bhaskararaman, the officials said.

"They devised a back-door way to defeat the purpose of ceiling (maximum of project visas permissible to the company's plant) by granting permission to reuse 263 project visas allotted to the said Chinese company's officials," it was alleged.

Project visas were a special type of visa introduced in 2010 for the power and steel sector for which detailed guidelines were issued during P Chidambaram's tenure as the home minister but there was no provision of reissue of project visas, the FIR alleged.

"As per prevalent guidelines, deviation in rare and exceptional cases could be considered and granted only with the approval of the home secretary. However, in view of the above circumstances, the deviation in terms of reuse of project visas is likely to be approved by the then Home Minister...," it further alleged.

The CBI in its FIR on May 14 has named as accused Karti, Bhaskararaman, Makharia, Talwandi Sabo Power Limited (TSPL), and Mumbai-based Bell Tools Limited through which bribes were allegedly routed.

The case was registered under IPC sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 477A(falsification of accounts) and sections 8 and 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, they said.

Makharia allegedly submitted a letter to the home ministry on July 30, 2011, seeking approval to reuse the project visas allotted to his company, which was approved within a month and permission was issued, the officials said.

It alleged that the payment of the bribe was routed from TSPL to Karti and Bhaskararaman through Mumbai-based Bell Tools Ltd with payments camouflaged under two invoices raised for consultancy and out-of-pocket expenses for works related to visas for the Chinese workers.

Makharia had later thanked Karti and Bhaskararaman on email, it added.

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