Life Mission scam: ED arrests Santhosh Eapen

Customs arrests Unitac MD Santhosh Eapen in dollar smuggling case
Santhosh Eapen

Thiruvananthapuram: The  Enforcement Directorate here on Monday arrested Unitac Builders Managing Director Santhosh Eapen in connection with the Life Mission scam.

ED officials have reported that Eapen had mediated the distribution of the bribe in the scam. Earlier, ED had arrested M Sivasankar, former principal secretary to the Kerala Chief Minister, in the case.

The case involves the alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act in the project, which intended to provide homes to the poor who lost their houses in the floods of 2018.

Timeline of Life Mission scam 
The Life Mission project in Thrissur's Wadakkanchery triggered a controversy after congress MLA Anil Akkara came with a complaint.

The CBI had in 2020 filed an FIR in a Kochi court under section 120 B of the IPC and section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010 on Anil Akkara's complaint, listing Santosh Eappen as the first accused and Sane Ventures as the second accused.

The two companies had undertaken the construction based on the agreement entered with them by Red Crescent, an international humanitarian movement, which had agreed to provide Rs 20 crore towards the Life Mission project.

The CBI had then taken a position that private company Unitac, carrying out construction on behalf of a Kerala government body, did not get the contract through a tender.

The project entailed the construction of 97 apartments and a health centre, and it was alleged that both the gold smuggling case accused held talks with Unitac and fixed a commission of 30 per cent of the project cost -- 20 per cent to a UAE official and 10 per cent to Swapna Suresh and other co-accused for approvals and other file movements.

The alleged FCRA violation and corruption in the project had snowballed into a major political issue at that time with opposition parties charging that Swapna Suresh had admitted before an NIA court that she had received Rs 1 crore as commission from the project. She had reportedly claimed that the money was for Sivasankar.

The CBI claimed that Sivasankar had met Santhosh Eapen at his chamber along with Swapna Suresh and assured full support.

UV Jose, the then Life Mission Chief Executive Officer, was also allegedly present at this meeting.

However, Life Mission CEO had submitted before the court that Unitac and Sane Ventures had undertaken the construction based on the agreement entered into with them by Red Crescent and had directly accepted foreign contributions from Red Crescent, which is a foreign agency.

The petition also said the companies which signed an agreement with the Red Crescent do not come under the categories of persons prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution as per Section 3 of the FCRA.   

(With IANS and PTI inputs)

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