The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) Wednesday formally recorded the arrest of former PWD minister and IUML leader VK Ibrahim Kunju at a private hospital in Kochi in connection with the graft in the Palarivattom flyover case.
Two teams of the VACB arrived at the residence of the former minister in Kochi with a search warrant only to find him missing there. Upon receiving information that he had admitted himself to a private hospital earlier in the day, the officials reached the hospital and recorded his arrest. It has to be seen if Kunju will be taken into custody or allowed to remain at the hospital after assessing his medical condition.
Kunju, an IUML MLA from Kalamassery constituency and the PWD minister in the previous Oommen Chandy-led government, is accused of releasing nearly Rs 9 crore as advance from the treasury to the builder of the Palarivattom flyover at a rate of interest which was disadvantageous to the state government and cost the state exchequer dearly.
The details of the alleged bribery came to light after the flyover, within just a year of commissioning, developed major cracks, indicating high-level corruption in the kind and amount of materials used in construction. Structural engineers, who evaluated the flyover several times, concluded that the flyover was weak and could potentially crash to the ground. Following the assessment, the flyover was decommissioned and is currently in the process of being rebuilt.
The VACB has arrested at least eight persons in the case including former PWD secretary TO Sooraj and has questioned Kunju in connection with the case.
Kunju also faces charges of money laundering through the bank accounts of the ‘Chandrika’ newspaper, the mouthpiece of the IUML.
Congress and IUML leaders have accused the ruling LDF government of using agencies like VACB to target political rivals with the aim of creating a smokescreen to divert attention from the gold smuggling scandal in which the Chief Minister’s Office is under the shadow of Central investigative agencies. The arrest of Kunju also comes ahead of crucial local body polls in December.
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