Karuvannur Cooperative Bank scam: Opposition says CPM responsible for the 'biggest ever bank robbery'

ED suspects money laundering too in Karuvannur coop bank under probe for loan fraud

Thiruvananthapuram: The Opposition sought to put the LDF government in the dock in the Assembly on Friday over the Rs 350-crore loan scandal in CPM-controlled Karuvannur Service Cooperative Bank in Thrissur. Congress MLA Shafi Parambil, while moving a motion for the House to be adjourned to discuss the loan scam, called the scam the "biggest bank robbery" in the history of Kerala. "It puts to shame even the popular heist series in OTT platforms," Shafi said.

Shafi's big charge was that the CPM leadership had kept the scandal under wraps even though the party's area secretary, two district secretaries and a commission led by former CPM MP P K Biju were convinced that the bank was looted by certain members of the Karuvannur Bank's governing council. "Instead of dismissing the governing council, the CPM leadership encouraged the criminals, " Shafi said.

He gave the example of a woman who had gone to seek loan from a nationalised bank. Shafi said the lady was befriended by a middleman (Arun Kiran who has now been arrested) who dissuaded her from taking loan from a nationalised bank and directed her to the Karuvannur Service Cooperative Bank. The bank took her documents and assured her that the loan would be sanctioned soon. Shafi said that lady was not able to contact the bank officials ever since. She was not given back her documents either.

"But later she got a notice from the bank asking her to pay Rs three crore or face recovery proceedings, " Shafi said. "She has not taken a rupee from the bank, " she said.

Shafi said individuals connected with the bank had used imaginary names to grant more than 50 loans of Rs 50 lakh each to one person. This way, many individuals had received loans ranging between Rs 13 and Rs 26 crore. And these loanees had not paid back the loans. As many as 379 illegal loans were doled out in this illegal fashion by certain officials.

The bank can grant A Class membership to only those residing nearby. As it turned out, Satheesan said people from Thiruvananthapuram to Wayanad were included as members.

Minister for Cooperation V N Vasavan said that the government had acted promptly. "A governing council can be dismissed only after following a due process, including a probe. Given the elaborate process required to be followed, the government had acted swiftly, " Vasavan said. He said a complaint was first registered on January 16, 2019. A case was registered within a week, he said.

Opposition Leader V D Satheesan said the scam first came to light in 2018. "The governing council was dismissed only yesterday (July 22). What were you doing the last three years, " he asked.

Satheesan also said that CPM leaders, who probed the issue, were convinced of the irregularities. "If a crime has taken place, is it enough to settle the issue within the party, " he asked. He wanted to know if any of the district CPM leaders, who were in the know of the scam, inform the state leaders.

Both Satheesan and Shafi said that it was the CPM decision to keep the scam a party secret that led to the loot of another Rs 100 crore after the corruption was first exposed in 2018.

Satheesan also asked whether the CPM would take action against party leaders who had conspired to keep the loan scam under wraps. Shafi said the CPM was the last refuge for criminals. "What Aloor (a criminal lawyer) is for Govindachamy, CPM is for gold smugglers and criminals, " Shafi said.

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