The Central Bureau of Investigation has questioned Nalini Chidambaram, wife of former finance minister P Chidambaram, in connection with Saradha ponzi scam, sources in the agency said.
Mrs. Chidambaram was apparently questioned in Chennai on Saturday, but sources close to her have categorically denied it. The agency has asked for a legal advisory and due diligence report that Mrs. Chidambaram and her team had prepared regarding the acquisition of a television channel, they said.
The name of Mrs. Chidambaram, a leading lawyer, got dragged into the case after scam kingpin and Saradha Group chief Sudipto Sen mentioned her in a letter he wrote to the CBI before his arrest in April last year. The 18-page letter said Mr. Sen claimed he had been forced to strike a series of business deals that were tilted heavily in favour of politicians.
One of these deals was for a TV channel in Guwahati, which, he alleged, was mediated by Mrs. Chidambaram. The proposal for a 42-crore investment, he wrote, came from Manoranjana Singh, who was once married to Congress politician Matang Singh. Mrs. Chidambaram, Mr. Sen wrote, was paid over Rs. 1 crore as her legal fee.
Sources close to Mrs. Chidambaram today said she represented Mrs. Singh in other cases, and was asked to offer her professional advice in her negotiations with Mr. Sen. But in a 70-page report by the auditors and her team, Mrs. Chidambaram had advised her client against the investment.
According to the proposed deal, the Saradha Group was to pay the legal expenses, even though Mrs. Chidambaram was a lawyer for Mrs. Singh. And the fees were not exorbitant for a year-long assistance for a lawyer of her seniority, the sources said. The entire transaction was income deducted at source and was paid by cheque.
The Saradha Ponzi scam, under which 17 lakh people had been duped of their life’s savings, has been a key issue ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and the recently concluded by-elections in the state.