New Delhi: Soon after former Finance Minister P Chidambaram appeared before the media at the Congress headquarters in Delhi to profess his innocence in the INX media case, a CBI team has arrested him from his residence.
Chidambaram has been taken to the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) headquarters. Sources said CBI Director Rishi Kumar Shukla himself was present at the headquarters along with top officers for the questioning of the former minister. After completing the formalities, Chidambaram will be produced in court on Thursday.
The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had earlier issued a Look Out Circular to prevent him from leaving the country.
The apex court had earlier decided to hear Chidambaram's petition seeking a stay on the Delhi High Court order, that dismissed his anticipatory bail plea, only on Friday.
After that development the CBI and ED - had a free hand to arrest the former union home and finance minister.
But Chidambaram's sudden appearance in public view on Wednesday night to address a news conference after the CBI and the ED said his whereabouts were not known set off dramatic events on Wednesday night.
After the press meet, Chidambaram later reached his Jor Bagh residence along with party colleagues and lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Shortly afterwards, the CBI, Delhi Police and ED teams too reached his residence.
The team of about 30 CBI sleuths accompanied by Delhi police officials knocked at the doors for a few minutes before scaling the boundary wall to enter the premises. A team of lawyers were present with Chidambaram when he was taken into custody.
A small group of slogan-shouting Congress activists had also gathered at his residence, but the entire operation was swiftly executed within half an hour of his arrival in Jor Bagh.
Chidambaram, who is accused of money laundering and getting kickbacks in the INX media case, asked probe agencies to "respect" the law and wait till Friday when the Supreme Court hears his bail plea.
He also put up a strong defence of himself and his family members, saying none of them has been accused of any offence by the probe agencies.
"I am aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law," he said, rejecting allegations that he was evading investigating agencies.
He said he was working with his lawyers through the last night, preparing his papers or his bail application.
"Until Friday and beyond, let's hope the lamp of liberty will shine bright and illuminate the whole country," he said, suggesting that the probe agencies should not arrest him until the apex court decides on his bail plea.
"I will respect law even if applied with an unequal hand by probe agencies," he said reading out from a written statement and flanked by several senior Congress leaders. He did not take any questions from journalists and left the venue after finishing his statement
As the possible action against Chidambaram triggered a political slugfest between the Congress and the BJP, the troubles for the 73-year-old Congress leader mounted with official sources saying the ED's money laundering probe against him has been widened.
The ED suspects the Congress leader's role in granting alleged illegal FIPB clearances to at least four more business deals, apart from INX Media and Aircel-Maxis, and receiving multi-crore kickbacks through multiple shell firms, the sources said
The ED has also come across evidences where alleged illegal deposits of over Rs 300 crore were made in a single shell firm after purported kickbacks were received by Chidambaram and his son Karti in lieu of granting illegal Foreign Investment Promotion Board(FIPB) and Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) approvals, the sources claimed.
The agency, sources said, hence has been seeking court clearance allowing custodial interrogation of the father-son duo given the nature of these complex transactions and kickback deals which have cross-border ramifications, as teams from the CBI and ED continued their efforts to locate the Congress leader.
As a host of Congress leaders expressed solidarity with Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi accused the government of playing the politics of character assassination while Priyanka Gandhi alleged he is being "hunted down".
The BJP rejected the Congress' charge of vendetta levelled against the Centre, saying the Union government did not interfere in the investigation and he must face consequences for his deeds.