KOCHI: The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (VACB) intent became clearer as cases were registered against the high and mighty across Kerala last week. While the Kottayam Vigilance filed FIR against former finance minister KM Mani for helping a lead oxide manufacturing unit to evade tax to the tune of `1.66 crore, in Kochi there was no respite for former excise minister K Babu.
Mani, who was earlier linked only to bar bribery allegations, now finds himself embroiled in a slew of corruption charges. After the VACB on August 31 charged him with giving tax exemptions to poultry farmers and an ayurvedic medicine manufacturer causing loss of about `200 crore to the exchequer, a quick verification order was also issued by the Thiruvanthapuram vigilance court over a complaint that he used bribe amount from the bar bribery scam to conduct mass wedding in Kottayam last year.
Ironically, Mani, who was upping the ante against the former partners and announced that his KC(M) was breaking away from the UDF, is finding support only from his erstwhile partner Congress during these troubled times. “The cases are being registered based on frivolous complaints. It’s nothing but political vendetta,” former chief minister and Congress leader Oommen Chandy said in Thiruvanthapuram. Jacob Thomas, in a letter to the Director General of Income Tax earlier in the day, sought the details of financial transactions made by political leaders. The letter also asked their investments in private and cooperative banks functioning in Kerala.
In a clear indication of his intent, VACB is also trying to connect the dots by naming the ‘benami’. For instance, in the case of K Babu, it has named a host of people including a Kochi-based hospital, a real estate dealer and a proprietor of Royal Bakers. Further tightening the grip on former minister K Babu in the case related to illegal amassment of wealth, VACB checked a locker with Punjab National Bank, a public sector bank where 117 sovereign gold ornaments of his daughter Aiswarya were kept.
Officials have sealed the locker as part of the procedure. According to VACB officials, gold ornaments were purchased by Babu as part of his daughter’s marriage last year. The locker was registered with a joint account held by Aiswarya and her husband Vipin. Meanwhile, VACB team interrogated Nandakumar former personal staff member K Babu in Pullapady.