Chidambaram arrested over INX Media irregularities

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Senior Congress leader and former Union finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram on the night of August 21 at his posh Jor Bagh residence in New Delhi. The arrest took place hours after Chidambaram failed to get any immediate reprieve in the INX media case from the Supreme Court.

A CBI spokesperson said Chidambaram has been arrested on the basis of a warrant issued by a competent court. After his arrest at his residence, the former minister was taken to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where a medical examination was done, sources reportedly said.

Chidambaram has been kept in No. 5 suite of the CBI Guest House on the ground floor of the agency headquarters, they added. He will be produced before a special CBI court on Thursday, where the agency will seek his remand.

Shortly after failing to get interim relief earlier on August 21, the 73-year-old leader made a dramatic appearance at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters in New Delhi and addressed a news conference professing his innocence.

“I am aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law,” Chidambaram said, rejecting allegations that he was evading investigating agencies. He added that he had been working with his lawyers throughout August 20, preparing his papers for his bail application.

Sleuths rushed to the party office, but by the time they reached, Chidambaram had already left for his residence 115-A in Jor Bagh, a 10-minute distance from the Congress office, in a luxury sedan accompanied with his lawyers and party colleagues — Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Kapil Sibal.

Afterwards, officials from the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate arrived at Chidambaram’s house. Dramatic scenes unfolded when a few CBI officials scaled the five-foot-high wall of the bungalow in order to gain entry. Another team attempted entry from the backdoor, media reports said.

Once three officers reached inside, they opened the gates to allow entry to other team members waiting outside. Soon a team of officers, identifying themselves as from the ED, also arrived. A team of about two dozen officials remained on guard at the bungalow when Chidambaram was inside with Sibal and Singhvi.

After completing arrest formalities, the CBI team had to wade through Congress supporters who had gathered outside raising slogans against the agency. A few supporters jumped on the white car in which Chidambaram was being taken to the agency headquarters, the reports pointed out.

Chidambaram’s son Karti described the CBI action against his father as a drama and a spectacle enacted by probe agencies to simply sensationalise and satisfy the “voyeuristic pleasure” of some. “It’s politically motivated and a witch-hunt,” he told reporters in Chennai.

The CBI had sought Chidambaram’s “custodial interrogation” in the case pertaining to alleged irregularities in the grant of foreign investment clearances to INX Media when he was the finance minister. They said Chidambaram was summoned last year for questioning in the case but he remained evasive in his responses.

The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister. Afterwards, the ED also lodged a money laundering case in this regard last year.

Palaniappan Chidambaram (born 16 September 1945) is a former attorney, who currently serves as Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha and formerly served as the Union Minister of Finance of India. He was the Finance Minister starting in May 2004 through 2014, except for a three and a half year stint – beginning November 2008 – as Home Minister. Chidambaram returned as Finance Minister in July 2012, succeeding Pranab Mukherjee, who demitted office to become the President of India.

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