THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It is learnt that the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau will soon file a chargesheet against Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani in the bar bribe case.
The chargesheet, to be filed in the Vigilance court by the end of this month, will be backed by circumstantial evidence, including audio recordings of Kerala Bar Hotels’ Association (KBHA) vice-president Biju Ramesh, the result of the polygraph test on his driver Ambili, statements of over hundred persons and mobile phone tower location details.
According to the Vigilance team, the KBHA collected around `24 crore from its members to secure government sanction for reopening the closed bars. Of this, a small portion was spent on the court case and the rest was paid as bribe to politicians. Biju Ramesh had alleged that Mani was paid `1 crore in instalments.
The VACB found that the mobile phone tower location details of the bar owners, who visited the minister’s residences in the state capital and Pala, support this claim.
Also, the lie detector test on Ambili confirmed his statement that he drove association president D Rajkumar Unni to the residence of Mani and was a witness to him handing over a cash-filled suitcase to Mani.
It is learnt that Chief Secretary E K Bharath Bhushan told the probe team that Mani had insisted in a Cabinet meeting that he should be consulted on changes in the Abkari policy.
Ramesh’s allegation was that bribe was paid to Mani for taking a stand against the mass closure of bars. However, the reluctance of four office-bearers of the KBHA to undergo a lie detector test has come as a set back to the Vigilance team.