ED seeks details on Life Mission-Red Crescent deal from Kerala government

Logo of Enforcement Directorate. Twitter/@dir_ed  

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has written to Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta seeking “some details and clarifications” regarding the receipt of aid from the UAE Red Crescent for the construction of 140 houses for landless and homeless families under the Life Mission scheme in Thrissur.

A senior officer clarified that the ED had issued no legal notice to the State government. However, it could have sought details on Life Mission’s deal with the charity and the prime movers behind the agreement. The Government was in the process of providing the information requested by the Central agency, he said.

The Government’s ambitious project to provide housing to the needy had come under a cloud after Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the UAE-consulate linked gold smuggling case, had stated in court that the ₹1 crore found by the ED in her bank locker was her percentage for channelling the foreign aid to the private builder contracted to execute the project.

Ms. Swapna’s statement was part of her defence against the ED’s accusation that the “unaccounted money” in the locker was her share of the spoils from the illegal import of gold in air cargo consignments addressed to the UAE consulate here during the 2019-20 period.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s media advisor John Brittas had kicked up a political row when he “disclosed” on August 19 that builder had paid ₹4.5 crore as a kickback to get the foreign grant.

He said the builder had delivered the bribe to an accused in the gold smuggling case who in turn passed a part of it to a UAE consulate official.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala has demanded a CBI enquiry into the revelation by Mr. Brittas.

Mr. Chennithala had alleged that Mr. Vijayan’s former Principal Secretary, M. Sivasankar, had fast-tracked the deal at the behest of the Chief Minister’s Office. Ms. Swapna had played a pivotal role in the procurement of the foreign aid and the awarding of work to the builder favoured by the powers that be.

Mr. Chennithala said the Chief Minister’s Office had ignored the red flags raised by the Law Department. Its objections should have alerted the Government to the pitfalls in the deal. Life Mission had signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with UAE Red Crescent and the private builder with undue haste, he had alleged.

Life Mission has repeatedly stressed that it had no role in the award of the building contract. As per a Memorandum of Understanding, the UAE Red Crescent had agreed to construct the dwellings and hand over the apartments to the State government. It had contracted the builder directly through officials attached to the UAE consulate here.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 2:17:09 AM |

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