April 23, 2015 4:11:48 am
The bar bribery scandal is set to further rattle the Congress-led government in Kerala with Wednesday’s expose of a secret statement given by a bar baron before the court which said that the bar hotel owners association had paid Rs 10 crore to state Excise Minister K Babu.
A senior Congress leader, Babu is one of the confidants of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
The association working president Biju Ramesh had given the statement, as per the CrPC 164, before judicial first-class magistrate court in connection with the Vigilance probe into the case over claims of Finance Minister K M Mani taking bribes to renew bar hotel licences.
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In the statement, which was leaked to TV channels, Ramesh said Babu was allegedly paid Rs 10 crore to renew bar licences and reduce their annual licence fee. It said the amount was collected by the association from its members.
The licence fee was reduced to Rs 23 crore from Rs 30 crore only because Rs 10 crore was paid to the minister, Ramesh claimed. Bar hotel owner Krishnadas handed over the sum to Babu, said the statement.
The statement said Mani had demanded Rs 5 crore to renew bar licences, but he could be paid only Rs 85 lakh in two instalments.
Since the government did not take a decision favouring the bar hotel owners, Babu then advised the bar hotel owners not to give more money to Mani, Ramesh claimed. He said Babu assured the bar owners that the government would not go for an appeal in the bar licence case if they get got a favourable verdict in the high court. Hence, several bar hotel owners had gone back from their earlier statement that bribe was paid to Mani.
Ramesh said Mani sought money from the bar owners during their pre-budget meeting at his office.
Following the expose of the statement, Babu said the allegation was baseless and there was no evidence for it.
However, Kerala Congress (M) leader Antony Raju said a case should be registered against Babu. He said the Vigilance registered an FIR against Mani based on a disclosure. The allegations in the statement given in the court are more serious and strong. Hence, case should be registered against Babu, said Raju.
Earlier, an audio of conversation between bar hotel owners had leaked, alleging that they had paid money to K Babu, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala and Health Minister V S Shivakumar.manded Rs 5 crore to renew bar licences, but he could be paid only Rs 85 lakh
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