Prime accused in INX Media case named Ambani as owner; ED did not follow up on the lead

The prime accused in the INX media case, Peter Mukherjea named Ambani family and friends as the majority shareholders of the company in his statement to the Enforcement Directorate back in 2018. This is the same case that led to the arrest of former Union Finance Minister P Chidamabram and his son Karti Chidambaram on bribery charges based on the statement given by Mukherjea and his wife Indrani Mukherjea.

As reported by The Wire, Peter and Indrani Mukherjea both named Ambani in their written statements made more than a year apart, in 2018 and 2019 respectively. According to Mukherjea’s statement, Ambani owned 40% of stake in INX/ NewsX firm through Indrani in holding capacity.

Another 20% was held by a private equity firm called NSR PE, which was owned by Ambani family and friends. Mukherjea’s also alleged that Ambani was in direct contact with Chidambaram and Karti Chidambaram via Reliance Industries executives. Other people named in the statements include Ambani aides L.V. Merchant, Manoj Modi, and Anand Jain.

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It is unclear as to what ED had done with this information as no one from Reliance Industries was called for questioning. These allegations were not made public whereas Chidambaram and Karti were both booked following a widely reported bribery probe.

ED officials refused to comment on this revelation whereas Reliance Industries is yet to respond. In what now looks like a shifty move, the NDA government extended the tenure of the current head of Enforcement Directorate last month.

However, this isn’t the first time Ambani’s name has been associated with INX media. According to a 2013 draft report by Serious Fraud Investigation Organization (SFIO), it was found that the Income Tax Department obtained evidence suggesting the acquisition of INX media by Reliance via a front company called ‘Indi Media News Pvt Ltd’.

The draft report was based on an investigation into transactions done by companies associated with Ambani and Reliance Industries. The then UPA government did not follow up with the findings of this report. People named were never called for questioning as further probe wasn’t commissioned into this matter.

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