Kochi: In fresh trouble for Kerala Congress (M) chief K.M. Mani, the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau (VACB) Wednesday filed an FIR in a court charging him with giving tax exemptions to poultry farmers and an ayurvedic medicine manufacturer abusing his position as the then finance minister in the previous UDF government.
The FIR was filed for granting tax relaxations to a poultry company and an Ayurvedic cosmetic company, resulting in alleged loss to the tune of Rs 200 crore to the state.
The FIR was filed at the Muvattupuzha vigilance court after recording Mani’s statement, based on a complaint by lawyer Noble Mathew, a former Kerala Congress leader and a BJP state panel member now.
In its report filed before the court, the probe agency said the quick verification 'revealed' Mani had abused his official position as a public servant in allegedly favouring one Thomson group in the matter of demand of penalty for tax evasion.
The VACB FIR also charged Mani with abusing his official position and without any authority ordered a stay on proceedings to recover Rs 64 crore from poultry dealers favouring them by hatching a criminal conspiracy.
According to the FIR, Mani, when he was the finance minister, gave illegal tax concessions to Ayurvedic cosmetic companies and waived off a fine of Rs 64 crore imposed by the sales tax department on Thomson Group, a poultry import company in Thrissur, for evading tax.
"It is revealed that the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes as well as subject committee (Finance Matters) rejected the request of ayurvedic product manufacturers to give retrospective effect to tax reduction for cosmetic products. In spite of these objections, the (then) finance minister had considered their plea and gave retrospective effect to tax reduction as per Finance Bill, 2014," the FIR said.
The VACB said it was prima facie revealed that Mani had taken 'undue interest' in granting retrospective effect to tax reduction in favor of ayurvedic cosmetic manufacturers.
The allegation of corruption involved in this deal needs detailed investigation by registering the FIR, it said.
Vigilance director had ordered a quick verification against Mani in July on the complaint of Noble Mathew.
The tax on Ayurvedic cosmetic products was cut down to 4 percent from 12.5 percent in the budget in 2014. It is alleged that the massive slash in the tax was due to influence by the manufacturers.
Along with Mani, his former additional secretary Jayachandran and two companies have been made accused.
Mani rubbishes charges
Reacting to the development, Mani rubbished the allegations and said he was being framed in the case by Vigilance director Jacob Thomas. He alleged character assassination by the vigilance chief due to personal grudge.
He said the Thomson Group evaded tax during the tenure of the previous LDF government and it was the UDF government that ordered the company to pay Rs 64 crore, including fine.
The fresh FIR comes close on the heels of a Vigilance Courtin Thiruvananthapuram on August 27 ordering further probe against Mani in a bar bribery scam case on a petition by the investigating officer.
Mani, against whom first information report has been registered on the allegation that he was paid Rs 1 crore as bribe for reopening closed bars, had to resign as finance minister unceremoniously after an adverse remark by the Kerala High Court in November 2015.
(With agency inputs)