Thrissur: Political backing helped the key officials of the CPM-controlled Karuvannur Cooperative Bank to swindle crores on the pretext of loan advances. As per initial assessment the fraud was being carried out for about six years but it is probable the Cooperative Department condoned the misappropriation and even money laundering due to political pressure.
The district-level leadership of the CPM in Thrissur likely kept the loan fraud amounting to at least Rs 300 crore under wraps for over two years though early probe suggests the loans were illegally advanced for about six years. It has been found that one of the main accused in the case, former bank manager M K Biju, took the initiative to pass 379 loans.
Loans worth crores of rupees were advanced by the bank to the scamsters, but the loans were taken in the name of CPM followers who are bank members, but without their knowledge.
The loans were advanced with the silent nod of CPM leaders, it is alleged. The crores of rupees amassed through the fraud were reportedly invested in various real estate and other ventures.
The bank affairs were controlled by some leaders who are in the CPM's Thrissur district secretariat. Strangely though the party's Iranjalakuda area committee neither discussed the issue nor informed the district committee about the matter even once. Subsequently, when the district leadership came to know about the matter it directed the local leaders to settle the issue at their level.
The local-level CPM workers had apprised the district leadership about the fraud in the beginning of 2020. With complaints mounting, the district cooperative joint registrar began a probe. In the report submitted in August 2019 a detailed account of the fraud was given by this watchdog. The copies of the report were handed over to the bank and through the bank officials reached the CPM members who were the bank directors.
However, the CPM leadership did not discuss the issues pointed out in the report and kept it under wraps for over two years. Even the CPM members of its Thrissur district secretariat had specific information about the fraud. The bank's governing body included the former district secretariat members and the area secretary of the CPM.
The CPM leadership didn't take action against the fraudsters despite being in possession of the probe report of an official who was deputed by the government. This connivance of CPM functionaries in the cover-up is thus evident.
The leaders of opposition parties had received the audit report subsequently. The BJP had raised the matter and also launched an agitation.
The CPM also aided the fraudsters by deputing party comrades for audit. Only party's 'own people' were placed in crucial posts at the cooperative registrar's offices which are responsible for detecting fraud.
It was only three days ago that M M Varghese, the Thrissur district secretary of the CPM, stated that action would be taken if anyone is found guilty in the scam. Nowhere in the press statement issued by the district secretary, there is any mention of fraud or shady deals worth Rs 300 crore. It only refers to the issue as "loan-related problems".
Cooperation minister V N Vasavan announced that the government is planning to bring a law to curb fraud in cooperative institutions.
Those involved in Karuvanoor bank loan fraud will not be protected, he vowed.
Vasavan also said the probe would be intensified and steps would be taken to strengthen the auditing mechanism.
Predicament of bank officials
So far only the bank officials have been arraigned as accused in the case.
When the scam came to light the bank officials tried to wriggle out of the situation by making an effort to repay the loans which were sanctioned without proper documents and collateral. But their plans to sell off properties went awry due to the slowdown in the real estate sector.
The CPM is reportedly trying to shield its the functionaries who are likely complicit in the cheating.
CPM activists allegedly involved in swindling the bank include a former member of its Thrissur district secretariat, a former area secretary and a former councillor of the district panchayat.