Crime Branch to probe into bar bribery allegations

Representational image.

Thiruvananthapuram: A special team of the Crime Branch, led by DySP Binu Kumar, will probe into the alleged bar bribery allegations in the state. Manorama News reported that the Crime Branch would carry out a preliminary investigation without registering a case.
Superintendent of Police Madhusoodhanan from the Crime Branch's Thiruvananthapuram unit will supervise the investigation.

The alleged bar bribery row made headlines after an audio clip, purportedly of a bar association member allegedly asking other members to pay money for a favourable liquor policy, was aired on TV channels. The audio clip triggered a political storm in the state as reports claimed that the Kerala government was planning to withdraw  'dry day' (days when alcohol is not sold in the state) norm.
In the leaked message, Animon, the president of the Idukki district chapter, is heard demanding a Rs 2.5 lakh from each members.
The probe team is expected to interrogate Animon to clarify the allegations. The voice message, which circulated within the WhatsApp group of organisation members from Idukki, was later deleted, but not before causing a stir within the industry.

An executive meeting of the bar owners' association convened recently in Kochi. Animon says that he sent the directives from the venue of the meeting. While not explicitly denying the authenticity of the recording, Animon expressed a desire to verify its content.

Amid this, Congress-led UDF opposition came out with allegations that the Left government sought Rs 20 crore from bar owners to make a policy favourable for them and demanded the resignation of state Excise Minister M B Rajesh. Brushing aside the allegations and the demand of the opposition, Rajesh said that the state government has not yet held any deliberations with regard to its liquor policy. The minister has sent a letter to the state police chief seeking a probe into the conspiracy behind the allegations over the voice clip.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Kerala Hotels Association denied the allegations and asserted that no money was collected from its members to influence the liquor policy. The association's president V Sunil Kumar told reporters that the person whose purported voice clip was aired on TV channels was already suspended from the association.

"So, I do not know what he has said. He has been suspended. After his suspension, if he says anything, we are not responsible for that," Kumar said.

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