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India's court sends ex-finance minister Chidambaram into police custody

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India's court sends ex-finance minister Chidambaram into police custody
India's former Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram (C) looks on as he leaves a court after a hearing following his arrest, in New Delhi, India, August 22, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis   -   Copyright  ANUSHREE FADNAVIS(Reuters)
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By Suchitra Mohanty and Manoj Kumar

NEWDELHI (Reuters) – An Indian court on Thursday ordered a former finance minister into police custody for questioning for four days, in a case stemming from government approval of foreign investment in a local media company, a judge said.

The rare action against P. Chidambaram, a top leader of the main opposition Congress party and a trenchant critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, drew opposition accusations that the authorities are pursuing a political vendetta.

Chidambaram was arrested at his New Delhi home on Wednesday after federal police agents jumped over the wall when they found the gates closed. On Thursday he appeared before a federal police court which said it needed to hold him until Aug. 26 for further questioning.

“Considering all the facts of the case, the police custody is justified,” judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said.

The allegations in the case centre around the role of Chidambaram, his son Karti Chidambaram, and several former government officials, in approving foreign direct investment in local media firm INX Media in 2007.

The Central Bureau of Investigation says the approval was illegal and that it was a case of “abuse of power”.

Chidambaram who was finance minister at the time said the approvals were done by a government committee and he didn’t have any role to play. His son who runs a consultancy also denied any wrong.

Chidambaram, 73, looking slightly pale, appeared in court flanked by police agents and lawyers. The court said his family could see him for 30 minutes each day during his custody.

The Congress party accused the Modi government of building a false case against the former finance minister.

“The vindictive, selective and malicious manner in which former finance minister and home minister P. Chidambaram has been persecuted and prosecuted is nothing short of a brazen, personal and political vendetta by Modi government,” the party said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Nigam Prusty in NEWDELHI; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, William Maclean)

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