Kerala government orders probe into UAE-funded Life Mission project at Wadakkancherry

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Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has rejected the probe saying that a case having international ramifications cannot be investigated by a state agency. He has demanded a CBI probe into the allegation

The Left Democratic Front government in Kerala has sought to quell the controversy raging over the alleged corruption in the LIFE Mission project at Wadakkanchery in Thrissur district, funded by Red Crescent, an NGO based in the United Arab Emirates, by ordering a vigilance probe.

The order was issued by Home secretary TK Jose following allegations by the Opposition parties that nearly half of Rs.21 crore sanctioned by the Red Crescent for the project was pocketed by political leaders and middlemen including an accused in the gold smuggling case and the son of Industries Minister E P Jayarajan.  

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has rejected the probe saying that a case having international ramifications cannot be investigated by a state agency. He has demanded a CBI probe into the allegations.

Wadakkanchery Congress MLA Anil Akkara said that the vigilance probe was ordered by the state government following reports that the CBI was considering an investigation on the basis of representations received from many, including the MLA.

He alleged that the vigilance probe was intended to cover up the involvement of higher ups in the case. “I do not expect a fair investigation from an agency under the chief minister since his office is also under the scanner of central agencies.

The opposition questioned the final agreement signed between UAE Consulate and Unitac Builders for the construction of the flats and a hospital since as per the norms in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the contract should be signed between Red Crescent in UAE and Unitac builders.

The bribes in the deal came to light after the Enforcement Directorate found Rs.1 crore in the bank locker of the gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh, who was arrested in July, She claimed it was the commission she received for the project. She is now in the custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that is probing the gold smuggling case along with the Customs and the Enforcement Directorate.

Later it was revealed that the middlemen had pocked as much as Rs.9 crore from the project by way of commissions and bribe. Chief Minister’s media advisor John Brittas admitted during a television talk show that he was aware of commissions up to Rs.4.5 crore. Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, who was present in the programme, vouched it.

The opposition leader has been demanding a copy of the MoU for the last one and half a months. However, the government kept mum on his letter forcing Ramesh Chennithala to step down from the task force for the Life Mission project. He announced his resignation on Wednesday, September 23.

The chief minister had earlier dismissed the allegations as part of a campaign to tarnish his government and sabotage the project meant for the poor. Over 2.26 lakh houses were completed as part of the LIFE Mission, which began as a project in 2016.

Image Credit: Onmanorama  

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