Life Mission row: High Court allows CBI to continue probe

Unitac was engaged in Life Mission even without Red Crescent's knowledge

Kochi: The Kerala High rejected the government's petition challenging CBI inquiry into the graft allegations related to state government's housing project in Wadakkanchery in Thrissur district.

Thus, the CBI can now continue with its probe into the Life Mission project.

The plea was filed by the CEO of LIFE Mission and Kochi-based Unitac Builders and Developers.

In October, the High Court had stayed for two months further proceedings against Life Mission CEO U V Jose in connection with the case registered by the CBI for offences under the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, Prevention of Corruption Act and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.

The case was registered by the central investigation agency based on a complaint filed by Anil Akkara, a Congress MLA representing the Wadakkancherry legislative assembly constituency.

The graft allegation emanates from the probe into the larger diplomatic gold smuggling case. Investigations into the latter case revealed that Swapna Suresh, one of the accused, had promised construction work worth Rs 100 crore under the Life Mission project to private companies, including Unitac. In return, she demanded a commission of 15 per cent. The Rs 20-crore Wadakkancherry flat project implemented in collaboration with Red Crescent, a UAE-based charity, was one of those projects she had promised.

Swapna had promised that when the Wadakkancherry project is completed, similar projects in collaboration with Red Crescent will be offered at Munnar in Idukki and Kulathupuzha in Kollam.

Life Mission CEO U V Jose had, on behalf of the government, signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Red Crescent on July 11, 2019, for building the flat complex in Wadakancherry. It was later revealed that documents related to the contract were not in order. Moreover, the CBI suspects that the norms of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act or FCRA were violated in receiving the funding from the UAE-based organisation.

The CBI had also argued that government officials and the accused in the gold smuggling case had indulged in massive embezzlement under the cover of the MoU signed for the project.

The government had contended that the case was politically motivated. It claimed that as the Life Mission had not received the money directly there was no violation of the FCRA provisions. It also explained that the bribery case was being currently investigated by the state's Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau.

The Unitac Company had put forward the argument that it had received money as per the contract for discharging the services.

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