Indian Lawmaker Accused of Illegally Issuing Visas to Hundreds of Chinese Citizens in Exchange for Bribes

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Police in New Delhi questioned an Indian lawmaker on Thursday for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for the illegal issuance of visas for nearly 300 Chinese nationals in 2011 as part of a Chinese-funded power project in India’s Punjab state, the Times of India reported on Thursday.

Karti Chidambaram, a member of the Indian Parliament representing the Indian National Congress (INC) political party, appeared before members of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on May 26 as part of his cooperation with an ongoing investigation into his allegedly corrupt actions.

“The fresh case against Karti pertains to issuance of visas to 263 Chinese nationals in 2011 when his father P Chidambaram was the Union home minister [Indian Minister of Home Affairs]. It is alleged that Karti received Rs 50 lakh [$64,405] to illegally facilitate visas for the Chinese nationals for working on a power project in Punjab,” the Times of India reported on May 26.

“According to the CBI, the work for setting up the power project was being executed by a Chinese company and was running behind schedule. So a TSPL [Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd.] executive had sought re-issuance of project visas for 263 Chinese workers for which Rs 50 lakh [$64,405] allegedly exchanged hands,” the newspaper relayed.

Karti Chidambaram dismissed the allegations of corruption against him as “bogus” while addressing reporters outside of India’s CBI headquarters on May 26.

“If this is not harassment, not a witch hunt, then what is,” the Indian politician said of the allegations against him at an earlier date, according to the Times of India.

TSPL’s parent company, Vendanta, granted China’s government a contract to operate its Talwandi Sabo Power Project in northern India’s Punjab state sometime before 2011. The Talwandi Sabo Power Project is a coal-based thermal power plant.

India’s Punjab state borders Pakistan, which operates several power plants through Chinese government funding provided by Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is an economic investment program China uses to ostensibly support new infrastructure projects in developing countries. Observers have criticized the BRI for its rampant use of dubious loan structures that often leave member governments in debt and vulnerable to political compromise by China’s ruling Communist Party. India is not a member of the BRI, though it does cooperate economically with China as the two Asian giants share a massive land border throughout the Himalayas.

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