Thiruvananthapuram | A day after a vigilance probe report sought to prosecute Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani in the bar bribery scam, the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau Director today rebutted the suggestion saying there was not enough evidence to initiate corruption proceedings against him.
Kerala Vigilance Director Vinson M Paul stated in the final report that from the documentary, oral and circumstantial material presented in the factual report by the Investigation Officer (IO), I am of the opinion that there is no sufficient material to prove the ingredient of section 7, 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. … Thus in the absence of any material whatsoever for demanding of bribe or acceptance of money, the contention of the IO that there is ample circumstantial evidence to prove the offences against Mani is not justified, the report stated.
Yesterday, the fact-finding report presented by Vigilance SP and investigating officer in the case, R Sukesh, leaked out suggested that Mani may be prosecuted under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act. However, the Vigilance Director’s final report that emerged today rejected Sukesh’s contention. Reacting to the development, Mani said I am not going to react to an issue which is pending in court.
It was contempt of judiciary to tarnish the image of an individual using a report submitted in the court by an investigating officer, Mani added. He also termed it as a political drama by vested interests to taint the glitter of Vizhinjam Port Agreement signed by the state government with Adani Group. The case was that Mani had demanded and accepted bribe from Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association office bearers to facilitate the renewal of licenses of 418 closed bars last year.
Triggering a major controversy, Association Working President Biju Ramesh alleged in November last that Mani had demanded Rs 10 crore and accepted Rs one crore. On the IO’s report that Mani had received an initial installment of Rs 15 lakh at his house at Pala on March 15, 2014 and a second installment of Rs 10 lakh at his official residence on April 2, the Vigilance Director said there was no material evidence with regard to these transactions.
None of the witnesses had deposed regarding demand for bribe nor has anybody witnessed acceptance of money by Mani, he said. On the contrary, they would contend that there was no demand of money by the accused and parting of money to him, the Director stated.
The Director rejected the IO’s contention that the decision of the cabinet (in April, 2014) to defer the decision on renewal of bar licences by seeking the opinion of Mani is also a circumstance to prove the demand for bribe. There is no mention whatsoever in the minutes of the cabinet meeting to show that the matter was deferred as requested by Mani and the same cannot be treated as circumstantial matter as canvassed by Investigating Officer, the Director said.
It was also stated that Biju Ramesh misinterpreted actual facts before the magistrate which may even invite judicial action for perjury. Similarly, it seems that the witnesses misled the IO also by fabricating evidence, the Director’s report said.
The bar bribery case is scheduled to come up in the Vigilance Special Court here on August 22. Petitions seeking to implead themselves in the case filed by CPI-M veteran and Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan and CPI leader V S Sunilkumar also would come up for hearing on that day.
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