Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday announced an anti-corruption inquiry into the allegations surrounding the Life Mission-UAE Red Crescent agreement to construct 140 dwellings for the poor in Thrissur entirely on foreign aid pegged at ₹20 crore.
The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) would conduct a preliminary inquiry to find out if the facts of the case revealed a cognisable offence. It would also probe whether the public exchequer suffered any loss and examine if Life Mission had violated any laws that govern the award of contract and transaction with a foreign entity.
The deal had come under a cloud after a court filing revealed that the UAE consulate-linked gold-smuggling case suspect Swapna Suresh had received ₹1 crore as a brokerage for nudging the contract in the direction of a particular builder. Later, two Ministers and a media person alleged that the builder had paid the smuggling case suspects bribe for getting the building contract.
Life Mission had said the UAE Red Crescent had contracted the builder. The government had no say in the matter.
UDF rejects inquiry
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala rejected the Vigilance inquiry. He said the VACB had no competency to inquire a case that involved a foreign charity and spanned international borders.
The CM had attempted to deceive the public by ordering a preliminary inquiry. He demanded a CBI probe. Mr. Chennithala said Mr. Vijayan had repeatedly turned down his request for a copy of the MoU struck by Life Mission with UAE Red Crescent. Hence, he said, he had resigned from Life Mission Task Force where he was a special invitee.
Sabotage bid: BJP
BJP State president K. Surendran said the government wanted to sabotage the investigation by three Central agencies into the Life Mission deal. Hence, it had ordered the Vigilance probe. He alleged that the move came against the backdrop of the allegation that Mr. Vijayan’s family had illegally benefited from the deal.
At his COVID-19 press conference, Mr. Vijayan appeared irate by the question whether a probe by the State government-controlled VACB would expose any wrongdoing. . “Some [journalists] seem to have a particular mindset,” he said.