July 19, 2018 / 1:49 PM / 2 months ago

CBI charges former Finance Minister Chidambaram over telecoms deal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has charged former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram with abuse of his official position and criminal conspiracy over the approval of a telecoms deal in 2006, it said on Thursday.

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

The accusations centre 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 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,” a CBI official 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 honourable 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.

($1=69.1000 Indian rupees)

Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P. Chidambaram, gestures as he leaves a court after a hearing in New Delhi, India, February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Reporting by Nigam Prusty, Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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