Adding another twist to the bar bribery scandal, a fresh audio recording was revealed to the media in which bar hotel owners were heard discussing about the money they had paid to Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, Excise Minister K Babu and Health Minister VS Shivakumar.
Finance Minister K M Mani is already facing a Vigilance probe into the allegation that he had taken bribe for renewal of bar licences in Kerala. The bar hotel owners have resorted to the strategy of exerting pressure on the government by releasing the audio recordings, at different occasions.
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In the latest audio, bar hotel owners association working president Biju Ramesh was heard discussing about the situation with others. Ramesh says that many had taken money from them (bar owners). If they come out, Chennithala would be in the dock, K Babu would be in the dock, Ramesh is heard saying. When another bar owner asks how Chennithala would land in trouble, Ramesh said they had gone to the KPCC office to hand over money to Chennithala.
Ramesh continued to explain that they had delivered Rs 25 lakh at the house of Shivakumar. He said they were forced to give the money. If everything is revealed, four or five ministers would have to quit and the ministry would collapse. If Chennithala and a few others become accused in corruption cases, next time LDF would easily win the elections.
At this juncture in the audio, another bar hotel owner (later identified as VA Radhakrishnan) recalled that “Sahib’’ called him from Delhi and asked whether he was going for the bar owners’ meeting. The owner was heard saying that the “Sahib’’ advised him not to make trouble. Besides, he found himself lucky in not accepting money from bar owners and returning the amount delivered to him.
Reacting to the latest audio release, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said it was an attempt to keep the issue in the limelight.
Bar hotel owner V A Radhakrishnan told the media that the person whom he had referred to as ‘Sahib’ was Industries Minister PK Kunhalikutty.
A few months back, Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan had alleged that Chennithala and Babu were involved the bar bribery scandal. Both ministers had then challenged Achuthanandan to bring out evidence against them.