No nod for prosecution in KSDC graft case

The State government has refused to give sanction to prosecute Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) officials, notably its former chairman and Congress leader R. Chandrasekharan, in a case registered by the CBI in connection with the alleged corruption in the tendering and purchase of raw cashew during the period of the previous United Democratic Front (UDF) government.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan denied the allegation that Mr. Chandrasekharan’s alleged proximity to him had saved the veteran Congress trade unionist from prosecution by the CBI.

Mr. Vijayan said the government’s decision was neither off the cuff nor motivated by any personal interest. It was based on the merit of the legal opinion received by the government. The administration examined the CBI’s finding in detail and found them to be flawed and without legal basis.

The KSCDC had merely followed a time-tested procurement practice that was the norm internationally. Its board had approved the decisions. The procurement guaranteed employment for cashew workers during the 2013-15 period.

The High Court had ordered an inquiry into the alleged scam in 2015 given its international ramifications. The CBI had reportedly found that procedural violations, opacity in tender modalities, and possible attempts to fix bids had cost the public exchequer ₹600 crore and accorded a corresponding benefit to cashew suppliers and their middlemen.

The CBI had reportedly found that the KSCDC had purchased raw cashew at higher than prevailing international market rates. Lack of accurate price data on cashew had allegedly resulted in opaqueness in procurement.

It also allegedly found that the order to the original bidder had changed hands multiple times through contracts on High Sea Sales (HSS), raising the possibility of fraud in the tendering process and money laundering.

The CPI(M) had also agitated against the KSCDC on the issue in Kollam district. It had made the allegations against the KSCDC an election issue in the 2016 Assembly elections that saw significant victories for the LDF in the cashew procession region.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 12:54:15 PM |

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