Former Indian finance minister P Chidambaram arrested on corruption allegations
Leading member of opposition Congress party is also being investigated for money laundering
India’s former finance minister and a senior leader of the main opposition Congress party, Palaniappan Chidambaram, will appear in a local court on Thursday following his arrest by the country’s federal investigative agency for alleged corruption during his tenure.
Mr Chidambaram was taken from his residence in New Delhi on Wednesday night, soon after he appeared at Congress party offices to address reporters, saying he had not been hiding for the past 24 hours – as many believed – but seeking protection of the law.
Flanked by party colleagues and senior lawyers, he said no charge had been filed in a court by the investigating agencies. “Yet, there is a widespread impression that grave offences have been committed and my son and I have committed those offences,” said Mr Chidambaram. “Nothing can be further from the truth.”
When Mr Chidambaram returned to his residence after addressing the media, a team from the Central Bureau of Investigation arrived and whisked him away.
A lawyer with a degree from Harvard Business School, Mr Chidambaram, 73, is one of the most prominent members of the Congress party and is a member of the upper house of parliament.
He has been facing allegations since May 2017, when the CBI registered a case against his son and unknown officials from the finance ministry for corruption in an overseas investment approval when Mr Chidambaram was the finance minister in 2007. Since then, the Enforcement Directorate which investigates financial crimes has also begun investigating a case of alleged money laundering.
Mr Chidambaram had sought interim protection in both cases, however the Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to grant him bail, saying he appeared to be “kingpin” and “key conspirator” of the alleged scam. The Supreme Court will hear his plea on Friday seeking a stay of the High Court order.
Mr Chidambaram was finance minister for more than six years in Manmohan Singh’s Congress-led coalition government until 2014 and was also the country’s home minister following the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
He has denied all the allegations and earlier said the government was intimidating him to silence his criticisms of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration. The Congress party has accused the Modi government of targeting opposition leaders, calling the action a “political vendetta”.
“This is quite unusual, unprecedented,” said Ajoy Bose, a Delhi-based independent political analyst. He said it was difficult to understand whether the custodial interrogation of Mr Chidambaram was necessary when he was already appearing before an investigating agency. “Obviously questions will be raised about whether this is just or if there is some political angle to it.”
Updated: August 22, 2019 12:15 PM