Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bar license bribery case: Vigilance registers case against Kerala minister K M Mani

Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Thursday registered a case against Finance Minister K M Mani in connection with the allegation that he had accepted bribe from a bar hotel owner to renew liquor licence.

Mani, chairman of Christian-dominated regional party Kerala Congress (M), is listed as the first accused.

Mani termed the case as an outcome of a political conspiracy and turned down the Opposition demand that he should quit. Kerala Congress (M) and Congress rallied behind the beleaguered minister, one of the senior leaders of the ruling coalition United Democratic Front. Catholic Church and upper class Hindu Nair leadership too rushed its support for Mani. Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council chairman Cardinal Clemis doubted whether registering a case would make Mani a corrupt politician. Nair leader G Sukumaran Nair said he did not think that Mani was corrupt.

Last month, prominent bar hotel owner and their trade body working president Biju Ramesh levelled the allegation that he had paid a bribe of Rs 1 crore to Mani in two installments against the minister’s demand for Rs 5 crore.

Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan soon rushed a letter to Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala that a case be registered against Mani as per the Prevention of Corruption Act. Accordingly, the VACB went for a quick verification report. Its sleuths recorded the statements of 29 persons and found that prima facie a case could be framed against Mani as per sections 7 and 13 (D) of anti-corruption act. The VACB mainly depended on the statement of Ramesh driver Ambili, who had allegedly gone to Mani’s house in Pala in hand over the money.

While VACB’s quick verification was in the process, two LDF leaders had moved the high court seeking a directive to the agency to register case against Mani. The court rejected the petition, with a rider that VACB director should take a decision based on the quick verification report. The legal adviser at the VACB reported that an FIR could be registered against Mani.

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