Palarivattom flyover project was ridden with graft right from the word go: Vigilance

Palarivattom flyover project was ridden with graft right from the word go: Vigilance

Kochi/Kottayam: The Vigilance probing into the suspected irregularities in the construction of a flyover at Palarivattom stated that the accused in the case had planned well to enrich themselves and corruption began right from the start of the tender process. 

Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau (VACB) has informed its court at Muvattupuzha that it has found out three stages when the people behind it benefitted. 

According to the Vigilance case, the flyover was designed in a manner so as to help the accused to make pecuniary gain. These beneficiaries include: VV Nagesh, the 13th accused who is the owner of Bengaluru-based Nagesh Consultancy; Sumit Goyal, the first accused who is the owner of the RDS Project which took up the building contract; and the other few accused as mentioned by the agency in a revised list. 

The investigation team came up with a fresh list of accused the other day after the recently booking more persons including A P M Mohammad Hanish, who was the Managing Director of the Roads and Bridges Development Corporation (RBDC) when the irregularities took place. With this the number of accused in the case has gone up to 13.

After former PWD secretary T O Sooraj who was arrested earlier, Hanish is the second IAS officer to be arraigned in the case. He is the 10th accused.  

The other newly arraigned persons in the case are K Somarajan, former special secretary at the PWD, as well as A H Bhama and G Santosh, former consultant and former senior consultant at KITCO. 

Palarivattom flyover project was ridden with graft right from the word go: Vigilance

Prosecution claim

Vigilance Prosecutor Raajmohan Pillai told the court that from the selection of the contract agency to allowing the mobilisation fund, the then PWD minister Ebrahim Kunju was aware of all the developments.

In its remand report on Kunju, the anti-corruption agency stated that he had made pecuniary benefits from the construction of the flyover and caused loss to the government exchequer. 

The prosecution argued that in the initial stage itself it was clearly pointed out that a mobilisation fund would not be given for the project. With this one of the two companies which came to take part in the tender proceedings backed out.

It was illegal to sanction a mobilisation fund after handing over the project to RDS Project. The government gave the amount at 7 percent interest rate after the South Indian Bank allowed an overdraft to contractors at 14.5 percent interest rate.

The fund was sanctioned to Kerala Roads and Bridges Corporation through the Kerala Road Fund Board. This was the amount that was given to the contractor.

At that time Ebrahim Kunju was the vice-chairman of the Road Fund Board and chairman of the Roads and Bridges Corporation. 

He has been charged with sections related to misuse of official powers and conspiracy. 

Palarivattom flyover project was ridden with graft right from the word go: Vigilance

Defence cites return of money

However, Kunju's lawyer argued that his client was arrested by Vigilance on the basis of baseless allegations. 

Kunju's lawyer also opposed the Vigilance argument that the grant of mobilisation fund was an irregularity. The minister had only put his signatures on the file which was discussed by various department heads earlier. It is wrong to argue that the amount given was mobilisation fund. The fund should be seen as advance money given for the construction of the flyover.

The defence also clarified that the money granted in advance was given back with interest within six months. 

Ebrahim Kunju was questioned for 18 hours when the case was being investigated. Earlier, the Vigilance had not alleged at any stage that bribe was demanded or bribe was taken. 

The contract company demanded a mobilization fund as the Cabinet had directed it to complete the project fast, the defence argued. 

Palarivattom flyover project was ridden with graft right from the word go: Vigilance

Evidence presented

The Vigilance told the court that 13 documents were seized from Ebrahim Kunju's house in Aluva during the raids conducted on March 9.  It was also found that Rs 10 crore had been deposited in the bank account of a printing and publishing company. 

Initially, the firm management had claimed the amount was the subscription fee of the daily. During further inspection they refused to disclose more details about the said money, the Vigilance stated. 

Nagesh remanded

Flyover designer Nagesh was arrested by the Vigilance on Thursday after summoning him through a notice.  The arrested came a day after the high-profile arrest of Ebrahim Kunju. 

Vigilance SP V G Vinod Kumar and Special Investigation Team DySP V Shyamkumar had summoned Nagesh to the Vigilance office and recorded his arrest.

Nagesh, who was produced before the Vigilance Court at Muvattupuzha, was remanded in the Vigilance custody for a day.

Earlier, Vigilance SP V G Vinod Kumar and SIT DySP V Shyam Kumar had questioned him. Nagesh's firm had submitted the previous design of the flyover as well as the estimates and drawing on behalf of the RDS Project. Changes were made in these documents subsequently and hence he is answerable too for the weak structure. 

Palarivattom flyover project was ridden with graft right from the word go: Vigilance

Vigilance rapped

The Vigilance application seeking custody of Ebrahim Kunju was posted for November 24 as the investigation team had failed to produce his medical certificate and allied documents. The application will be taken up on Tuesday. The former minister's bail plea will also come up for hearing on the same day.

Vigilance informed the court that the former minister Kunju was not cooperating with the ongoing probe.  

In its plea for Custody, the Vigilance also said that the accused had made pecuniary benefits in the construction of the flyover and caused loss to the government exchequer.

The Vigilance team at the court was chided by judge Jobin Sebastian for seeking Ibrahaim Kunju's custody without producing medical certificate and other documents. 

The judge reminded the Vigilance that Kunju was arrested while being under treatment in a hospital and it was the duty of the investigation team to ensure that his medical condition is satisfactory.

The judge sought to know as to why the medical statement was not attached along with the application for the custody of a person who has been remanded while under treatment. 

After the advocate pointed out that Kunju's health condition was bad, the court directed the setting up of a medical board and asked the Vigilance to submit the documents on Monday.

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