In a setback to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy professed policy of transparency in the functioning of his office,his recently-removed close aide Tenni Joppen was on Friday arrested on charges of cheating in connection with the multi-crore solar panel/wind mill scam.
The arrest came hours after Chandy received the United Nations award for public service. Joppen,a shadow of Chandy over a decade,allegedly had close links with scam accused Saritha S Nair.
Police said the arrest was based on a complaint from Pathanamthitta district which said Joppen and Nair had pocketed Rs 40 lakh,promising to install solar panel at his unit in a government-owned industrial park in Palakkad.
The complainant,Sreedharan Nair,told the police that Joppen had invited him to the Chief Ministers office,claiming to arrange a meeting with Chandy.
Sreedharan had gone to the Chief Ministers office along with Saritha Nair. At the office,Joppen held discussions with Sreedharan,saying that the Chief Minister was busy. The financial deal was struck at the Chief Ministers office in the presence of the alleged swindler.
Joppen did not bother to keep away Saritha from the Chief Ministers office despite a police alert that she was a fraudster. At the time of her meeting with Joppen in the Chief Ministers office,Saritha had already undergone short imprisonment for financial fraud and had been facing several similar cases,the police said.
Chandys three personal staff members,including Joppen,had been in frequent touch with Saritha.
Of them,another personal assistant Jikkumon Jacob had submitted his resignation a few days back,while gunman Salimraj was removed from the Chief Ministers duty. It was found that even a forged letter pad of the Chief Minister was used by Saritha and her team to win the confidence of the gullible investors in solar energy.
Chandy had earlier tried to play down the controversy,saying that talking to someone over phone was not a big issue. But Joppens arrest has weakened the defence. Apart from the three solar-tainted personal staff,Chandy has had to remove three others from his team over dereliction of duty in the past two years.