More Trouble For Kerala Govt In Housing Project Case: Private Builder Replaced Govt-Approved Firm, CBI Unearths Evidence Of Commission
CBI has unearthed evidence of Rs 3.5 crore being paid as ‘commission’ for the project.
Builder reportedly tells CBI that commission of Rs 3.5 crore was paid in foreign currencies to an Egyptian, Khalid Mohammed, in Thiruvananthapuram, after his company bagged the contract.
With the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigating the violation of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act angle in Kerala’s prestigious LIFE Mission Housing Project, more embarrassing details about the state’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) government are coming to light.
Two crucial pieces of evidence that have come out now are that private housing construction firm Unitac replaced a government-approved company, Habitat, and Rs 3.5 crore was paid as 'commission' by Unitac to get the housing project contract at Wadakancherry near Thrissur.
Malayalam daily Malayala Manorama reported that Kochi-based Unitac Builders and Developers replaced Habitat, which was initially asked to prepare a housing project for Rs 15 crore.
Red Crescent of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which extended funds for the project, had no clue on Unitac bagging the project.
The LIFE (Livelihood Inclusion and Financial Empowerment) Mission is a project to provide houses to the landless and homeless in Kerala.
The Red Crescent had come forward to provide Rs 20 crore funds for the Wadakkancherry project, which also includes the construction of a hospital.
The LIFE Mission Project has come under scrutiny from agencies such as the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) after Swapna Suresh, one of the prime accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case, claimed that Rs 1 crore found by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in her locker was a 'commission' she got from this project.
The gold smuggling case came to light on 5 July when Customs officials, on a tip-off, seized 30 kg of gold, valued at Rs 14.5 crore, at Thiruvananthapuram from diplomatic baggage meant for the UAE Consulate there.
Sixteen persons have so far been arrested in the gold smuggling case, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office (CMO) coming into focus as the now-suspended principal secretary, M Sivasankar, called Customs authorities to let off Swapna from the case.
The LIFE Mission Project has led to various uneasy queries being raised, including violations of protocols, as the Centre was not informed of the agreement between Unitac and the UAE Consulate.
One of the curious aspects of the housing project is that Red Cresent and Life Mission signed a memorandum of understanding in July last year, but the contract for the Wadakkancherry construction was signed between the UAE Consulate and Unitac.
Life Mission CEO has claimed that Red Cresent had not shared documents with regard to Unitac being given the contract for construction.
Another major embarrassment for the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) is that the number two in the Vijayan Cabinet and Industries Minister E P Jayarajan’s son is alleged to have got part of the commission.
Reports said the decision to take Unitac on board and leave out Habitat was taken by Life Mission, which is under the direct supervision of the State LDF government.
Causing more concern for the Vijayan government, the CBI has unearthed evidence from Unitac’s office of Rs 3.5 crore being paid as a 'commission'.
Unitac Managing Director Santhosh Eapen has reportedly told CBI authorities that the commission of Rs 3.5 crore was paid in foreign currencies to an Egyptian, Khalid Mohammed, in Thiruvananthapuram after his company bagged the contract.
Eapen told CBI that Khalid, an accountant at the UAE Consulate, promised to make more funds available if Unitac’s work at Wadakkancherry proves to be good.
Eapen had also deposited Rs 75 lakh in the account of a company run by Sandeep Nair and P S Sarith, the other prime accused in the gold smuggling case, on instructions from Swapna.
It has also now come to light that the funds for the LIFE Mission Housing Project had been brought into the country in the garb of flood relief.
NIA, ED and CBI are in full swing to unearth all details on the Kerala gold smuggling case and other fallouts from unearthing the gold smuggling racket.
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