The Palarivattom flyover scam, which lead to a significant political tussle between the ruling and opposition parties, took a surprising turn today, when the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau (VACB) accused all the officials who signed the order granting a loan for the contract.
The Vigilance has included Mohammed Hanish, senior IAS officer as the 10th accused in the case. He was the then managing director of RBDCK, the implementing agency of the project.
The Investigating Agency stated that the accused had planned to improve themselves and corruption began right from the start of the tender process. They had even informed the Muvattupuzha court that they identified three stages when the people behind it benefitted.
The Vigilance found that violating all the rules, the loan amount of Rs 8.25 crore was given to the contractor Sumit Goel. Other senior officials from the Public Works Department, like special secretary K Somarajan, under-secretary Latha Kumari, additional secretary Sunny John and deputy secretary PS Rajesh were also accused. Following the arrest of the fifth accused, Ebrahim Kunju, VV Nagesh, the owner of Nagesh Consultants who designed the flyover, has also been arrested.
Besides, two KITCO officials, engineer A H Bhama and consultant G Santhosh have also been included in the corruption case. Thus, the total number of accused in the case has reached 17.
According to the remand report of VACB, in connection with the submission of technical bid, the preliminary design calculations and design drawings of RDS Projects and GPT Infra Projects were prepared by Nagesh.
To make an illegal gain, the accused conspired with RDS Projects and prepared the final design drawings without conformity with IRC and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways guidelines. The report submitted by VACB points out that the accused had admitted that he received an amount of Rs.19.76 lakh from RDS Projects Ltd for his services for the Palarivattom flyover project.
The report stressed, “Details collected from banks in which he has an account shows that from 06-07-2013 to 13-08-2018 he had received Rs.61,50,590 from RDS Projects, which suggests he has made a pecuniary gain. The flyover was constructed in a substandard manner both in design and construction.” The Investigating Agency said that the accused had committed offence under Section 120 B, 409 IPC and Section 13 (1)(d) of PC Act 1988.
The Vigilance sought custody of IUML leader Ebrahim Kunju for interrogation as he concealed the information regarding the payment of around Rs.4 crore fine to the Income Tax Department for depositing unaccounted money of Rs. 10 crore in the account of Muslim Printing and Publishing Company Limited, which runs Chandrika, the IUML’s mouthpiece. The Vigilance strongly suspects that the said amount was part of an alleged kickback from the flyover project.
On Wednesday, eight months after he was arraigned, Ebrahim Kunju was arrested at the hospital. The court, which heard the bail plea filed by Ebrahim Kunju and the application filed by the Vigilance seeking his custody, posted the matter for hearing on November 24.
In the report submitted to the court, the investigating agency stated that as a result of the conspiracy hatched among the accused persons, Goyal, the contractor representing RDS Projects Lit, compromised the quality and quantity of materials and built a shoddy flyover.
Meanwhile, a medical board is constituted to look into the health condition of Ebrahim Kunju, who was allowed to continue at a private hospital by the court where he got admitted a day before the VACB decided to arrest him. The court has ordered the medical board to submit the report after assessing the former minister's mental and physical health within November 24. Ebrahim Kunju is currently undergoing treatment at Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi.