Thiruvananthapuram

Govt. allowed gold smuggling accused to earn commission in housing scheme for poor, says Ramesh Chennithala

Ramesh Chennithala

Ramesh Chennithala  

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on Monday asked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to explain how Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the UAE consulate linked gold smuggling case, had emerged as a commission agent of the Kerala government in its transactions with international aid agencies.

Quoting Swapna's sworn deposition in the special court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Kochi, Mr Chennithala said the accused had stated that the ₹1 crore found in her locker by the agency was the brokerage for having procured financial assistance from the Red Crescent in UAE for Life Mission, the government's ambitious scheme to provide free housing for poor and landless families. She had denied the money was her share of the proceeds from the gold smuggling operation.

Mr Chennithala said it was inexplicable how Swapna got into the deal. Usually, Red Crescent channelled aid to foreign countries through the International Federation of Red Cross organisations. The government owed the public an explanation.

He said that Life Mission had arbitrarily contracted a private builder to construct the dwellings financed for by Red Crescent.

M. Sivasankar, the former Principal Secretary to Mr. Vijayan, had allegedly favoured the firm. He and Swapna had flown to Dubai four days before Mr. Vijayan arrived to negotiate with Red Crescent officials.

 

The private firm, which bagged the multi-crore deal, had given a percentage of the lucrative contract to Swapna if her sworn statement in the NIA court was correct.

Mr Chennithala said Swapna had secreted the hard currency in a locker on Mr Sivasankar's advice. She and a chartered account introduced to her by Mr Sivasankar had rented the locker.

Mr Chennithala said the NIA had given no clean chit to Mr. Vijayan. The NIA court had accepted the agency's argument that Swapna held much influence in the CMO.

If granted bail, the NIA said in its deposition, Swapna could use her power in government to sabotage the probe. She could use her political connections to sway witnesses and destroy material evidence.

The NIA's statement in court was a damning indictment of the CMO. Mr Vijayan should step down and answer the charges against him.

The government should release the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Life Mission with the private builder for public scrutiny.

"These are facts submitted by Swapna in an affidavit filed in the NIA court. They are not a figment of any person's imagination. The corruption in Life Mission project spans international borders. The gravity and depth of the case warrant a CBI probe," he said.

Mr. Chennithala said it was doubtful whether the government had received clearance of the Ministry of External Affairs to obtain financial assistance for Life Mission from Red Crescent. The government has to reveal whether the Law Department had vetted the proposal for receiving foreign funding.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 8:46:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/govt-allowed-gold-smuggling-accused-to-earn-commission-in-housing-scheme-for-poor-says-ramesh-chennithala/article32317208.ece

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