THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Vigilance that probed the bar bribery scam has said there was no proof to show that the amount collected by the bar owners was handed over to Finance Minister K M Mani for the renewal of bar licences.
In its report submitted before the Vigilance court on Tuesday, the Vigilance concluded that Mani had not taken any special interest favouring the bar hotel owners in the bar licence issue and the decision with regard to renewal of bar licences was taken collectively by the government. Though it is known that the bar owners had collected money, the report that came out on Wednesday said there was no proof to show that this money was handed over to Mani. The witnesses - Rajkumar Unni, Dhanesh Kannan, John Kallat, Krishnadas Polakkulam, Jacob Kurian and Surendran - had said that they had visited Mani at his residence at Pala on March 22 and March 31 last year. But they asserted that Mani neither demanded money nor had they given him bribe during the visit. It was alleged that the bar owners had handed Mani Rs 15 lakh and Rs 50 lakh respectively during the two visits.
Of the said amounts, the Vigilance said Rs 15 lakh was seen to be accounted in the cash book on April 11, 2014. At the same time, the report also notes that the Cabinet had taken a collective decision on the renewal of licences on March 26, 2014.
‘Stressing that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation of criminal misconduct or abuse of official position by the accused, the Vigilance said “accordingly, the final report is submitted before the court with a prayer to drop further action in this case.”
On KBHA working president Biju Ramesh’s allegations that an amount of Rs 35 lakh (10 lakh contributed by Ramesh and Rs 25 lakh colected from bar owners) was handed over to Mani at Cliff House on April 2, 2014 by Rajkumar Unni, the report said that Unni had admitted his visit to the official residence on that date. However, he had denied of having handed over the said amount to the accused. On the allegations that he was handed over Rs 35 lakh, the Vigilance said that he had admiited to receiving Rs 10 lakh as legal fund but denied of having collected the remaining Rs 25 lakh. It was on the same day that the Cabinet had taken a final decision for not renewing the licences of 418 non standard bar hotels.
The Vigilance further said the claim of KBHA working president Biju Ramesh’s driver Ambili was not accountable and the polygraph test on him was not credible.