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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Kerala High Court allows CBI probe into ‘FCRA violations’ in housing project

Two petitions were filed against the probe in the court, one by the Life Mission CEO and another by Santhosh Eappen, MD of Unitac builders, who were named among the accused in the case, which emerged as an offshoot of the gold smuggling case.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthpuram | January 13, 2021 4:44:07 am
Kerala High Court. (File)

The Kerala High Court Tuesday allowed the CBI to probe alleged FCRA violations in the Life Mission—the state government’s housing project for the homeless in Wadakkanchery funded by the Emirates Red Crescent.

Two petitions were filed against the probe in the court, one by the Life Mission CEO and another by Santhosh Eappen, MD of Unitac builders, who were named among the accused in the case, which emerged as an offshoot of the gold smuggling case.

Amid the CBI probe into alleged irregularities, the Kerala government had decided to withdraw the general consent given to the central agency to probe cases in the state in November last year.

The MoU was between Kerala government and Red Crescent but the final deal involved the UAE Consulate and Eappen, of private builder UNITAC, which allegedly paid Rs 4.50 crore as bribe to consulate executive secretary Swapna Suresh, who had later become an accused in the gold smuggling case. The Chief Minister’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar is another accused in the case.

“A well-designed foul play and criminal conspiracy to misappropriate foreign contribution by evading audit by CAG are prima facie clear. A clear nexus of criminal conspiracy to divert the foreign contribution to the hands of a third person, private builders, is prima facie evident from the mere fact that no agreement was entered into between the UAE Red Crescent and the state government in furtherance of MoU.

The very nature of the mischief done in furtherance of MoU would suggest involvement of highly educated professionals, a mastermind,” Judge P Somarajan said.

Referring to the Chief Minister, who had canvassed the fund from Red Crescent, the court said, “It is not permissible to extend criminal liability on political executive merely because they have taken a policy decision and proactive steps in its implementation.”

The government had argued that the deal was between the builder and the UAE Consulate and hence the government did not face any criminal liability. However, the court said there is no plausible or acceptable reason for non-execution of subsequent agreements as envisaged in the MoU.

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