India’s federal police charge former finance minister Chidambaram over telecoms deal

FILE PHOTO: India's Finance Minister P. Chidambaram attends an interview with Reuters at a hotel during his visit for the G20 meeting in Mexico City November 4, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s federal police have charged former finance minister P. Chidambaram with abuse of his official position and criminal conspiracy over the approval of a telecoms deal in 2006, they said on Thursday.

The accusations center on the role of Chidambaram, now a senior leader of the main opposition Congress party, his son Karti Chidambaram, and several former government officials, in approving the acquisition of an Indian telecoms company, Aircel Ltd, by a Malyasian firm, Maxis Bhd.

The individuals accused in the case face charges of “abuse of official position and criminal conspiracy in giving illegal approval,” an official of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told reporters at a briefing.

Chidambaram said the charges were designed to support a “preposterous allegation” against himself and other officials, but declined to comment further.

“The case is now before the honorable court and it will be contested vigorously,” he said on social network Twitter. “I shall make no more public comment.”

Maxis and Karti Chidambaram have previously called the allegations unfounded.

Congress politician Anand Sharma, a former ministerial colleague of Chidambaram, told reporters on Thursday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was misusing its agencies to harass opposition leaders.

The government has said investigative agencies such as the CBI work independently.

Chidambaram, 72, a Supreme Court lawyer, served twice as finance minister in the previous Congress-led coalition that ran India for a decade. He has been a vocal critic of Modi and his policies.

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