India charges former finance minister over Aircel-Maxis deal

New Delhi • India’s federal police have charged former Finance Minister P Chidambaram (picture) with abuse of his official position and criminal conspiracy over the approval of a telecoms deal in 2006, they said yesterday.

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 an Indian teleco, Aircel Ltd, by a Malaysian 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 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, told reporters yesterday 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 Congressled coalition that ran India for a decade. He has been a vocal critic of Modi and his policies. — Bloomberg