Kochi: Even as an exhaustive probes into the gold smuggling and a related graft case are on, a hunt for a missing iPhone used by a prime accused is on. Even though the opposition have cited the issue giving certain hints, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau of Kerala has confirmed that investigation into the matter was still on.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress and BJP state president K Surendran have been pressing on the investigating agencies to ascertain the whereabouts of the expensive communication device as it is crucial for a breakthrough in the cases.
The iPhones were reportedly gifted by Santhosh Eapen, the managing director of Kochi-based Unitac Builders and Developers to prominent people in the corridors of power in Kerala. As reported earlier Unitac was engaged by the Kerala government for the Life Mission Project on building flats for homeless. Swapna Suresh, the accused in the gold smuggling case, had received five iPhones likely as a token reward for engaging UAE-based Red Crescent in the project. One of these smartphones is yet to be traced and there is no clue about its current user.
Earlier, there were reports that this particular iPhone has not been used by anyone so far. The person who received it as a gift has not even opened the packet.
However, the Vigilance team which is investigating the graft case says that the probe was continuing to trace the iPhone. After it was proved that one of the iPhones costing Rs 99,900 was in the possession of Kerala chief minister's former principal secretary M Sivasankar, now there is a lot of curiosity to find out who is possessing the fifth phone.
Srutiny of Sivasankar's phone
Meanwhile the recovery of iPhone from Sivasankar, who was arrested earlier this week by the Enforcement Directorate, is likely to help the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as it unravels the kickback angle in the Life Mission Project. The probe findings could incriminate Sivasankar and throw more light on the money stashed in bank lockers jointly opened with Swapna. Both the CBI and ED are inquiring into these matters simultaneously.
Interestingly in the midst of the raging controversy, assistant protocol officer at the secretariat M P Rajeevan has handed over an iPhone which he had won in a lucky draw organised by UAE Consulate, to the secretary of the General Administration Department. The iPhone is currently with the housekeeping wing at the Secretariat. The house keeping wing has sent a file to the GAD secretary asking what needs to be done with the device.
Earlier Unitac MD had stated that as part of the celebrations at the UAE Consulate in Kerala, he had purchased five iPhones and gifted them to Swapna. He claimed that one was given to opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. The opposition leader challenged his claim and served a legal notice on Unitac MD.
Subsequently Unitac MD retracted his earlier statement. Later Chennithala produced a photograph to prove that the iPhone was received by Rajeev.
The graft case has its origins in the awarding of building contract for the home project. Red Crescent had offered to build 140 houses and a hospital on 218 cents of land for poor and Unitac was chosen as the builder. The construction was supposed to be handed over to the Life Mission, a project of the Kerala government. It is suspected that kickbacks were paid by Unitac and Swapna and her aides had also cornered a part of the commission.