Kerala

Vigilance raids house of former Kerala Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar

V.S. Sivakumar

V.S. Sivakumar  

He was booked on Monday on the charge of having amassed wealth illegally and squirrelled it away in the name of his close associates between 2011-16

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB), Kerala, on Thursday raided the residence of former Health and Devaswom Minister and Congress legislator V.S. Sivakumar here.

The agency booked him on Monday on the charge of having amassed wealth illegally and squirrelled it away in the name of his close associates during his period in the office between 2011-16.

The early morning inspection came days after Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan gave the State Government sanction to prosecute Mr. Sivakumar on the charge of “enriching himself” illicitly.

The raids also targeted the houses of four of Mr. Sivakumar’s “close partners”, including that of his chauffeur.

The VACB had accused the “benamis” of having acquired prime real estate using ill-gotten wealth.

‘Political witch-hunt’

Mr. Sivakumar has termed the “intrusive examination” a “political witch-hunt” ordered by the Pinarayi Vijayan government to divert public attention from the high-level police corruption flagged by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in his report tabled in the Kerala Legislative Assembly recently.

He said the VACB had verified the allegations in 2016 and found them to be false.

However, beset by corruption charges, the government had resurrected the accusations against him based on a “fake complaint authored by a fictitious person” in a “vile” attempt to turn public opinion against the Congress in the run-up to the local body elections.

Mr. Sivakumar is now the third Minister in the Oommen Chandy government to face an anti-corruption enquiry under the current disposition.

The VACB had earlier charge-sheeted former Excise Minister K. Babu in an amassment of wealth case.

The agency had last Saturday questioned former PWD Minister and IUML legislator V. K. Ibrahim Kunju on the charge of financially favouring the firm responsible for the shoddy construction of the now decommissioned flyover at Palarivattom in Kochi.

Parallelly, the Crime Branch is investigating a galaxy of top Congress leaders, including former Ministers, MPs and MLAs, on the charge of rape based on a complaint filed by the woman suspect in the Solar Investment Fraud case that rocked the Chandy government in 2013.

Money laundering angle

Meanwhile, officials said the Enforcement Directorate has sought “third party information” from the VACB on whether there was a money laundering angle to the ongoing anti-corruption probe against the former United Democratic Front (UDF) Ministers.

In a court filing here on Monday, the VACB said a preliminary enquiry against Mr. Sivakumar in 2016 had yielded no evidence of illegal amassment of wealth initially.

However, a subsequent re-verification found that three persons close to Mr. Sivakumar had invested hugely in pricey real estate and acquired stakes in at least one private multi-speciality hospital.

A VACB investigator said the agency was pursuing the money trail in the case. It had based its case against Mr. Sivakumar on the statements of over 100 persons and nearly 105 incriminating documents.

The charges against Mr. Sivakumar and his “benamies” include conspiracy to accumulate wealth by abusing his constitutional office, corruption and shared intention under the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2018.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 12:24:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/vigilance-raids-house-of-former-kerala-health-minister-vs-sivakumar/article30868778.ece

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