The investigation agency records his arrest at a hospital where he is undergoing treatment
The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Wednesday arrested Indian Union Muslim League legislator and former Public Works Minister V.K. Ebrahim Kunju on the charge of corruption in the construction of the decommissioned flyover bridge at Palarivattom in Kochi.
A VACB team had descended on his house in Kochi armed with a warrant for the MLA’s arrest. The investigators searched the house and learned that Mr. Kunju had sought treatment at a private hospital late Tuesday. They arrived at the hospital and recorded his arrest at 10.30 a.m. Later, Vigilance Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge Jobin Sebastian arrived at the hospital and remanded Mr. Kunju in judicial custody for 14 days. Mr. Kunju was likely to remain in hospital during the remand period unless a medical board decided otherwise.
The VACB has sought his custody for three days. The court will consider the plea later. The VACB has booked Mr. Kunju on a charge of conspiracy to accord undue pecuniary advantage to the builder, misuse of official position and illegal amassment of wealth.
The ambitious flyover project launched by the Oommen Chandy government in 2013 to ease traffic congestion in Kochi had metamorphosed into a symbol of political sleaze in the public mind. Its decommissioning by the present Pinarayi Vijayan government on the ground that the structure was faltering and unsafe for traffic had caused a public outcry. The Supreme Court later ordered the demolition of the bridge and construction of another in its stead.
The VACB has so far arrested eight persons, including former Public Works Secretary T.O. Sooraj, in connection with the suspected multi-crore scam. The crux of the case against Mr. Kunju was that he had advanced ₹9 crore to the builder ostensibly to expedite the work.
The VACB concluded that Mr. Kunju had extended a sizeable and “norm-breaking” credit to the builder at a nominal and “brazenly advantageous” rate of interest. The agency alleged that the government’s “largesse” to the builder had, by a conservative estimate, cost the public exchequer ₹60 lakh in terms of interest alone.
The agency had also accused Mr. Kunju of ignoring cautionary reports about the “shoddy” nature of the construction and sanctioning the encashment of work bills without any vetting. The arrest has compounded Mr. Kunju’s legal troubles. The Enforcement Directorate is investigating the MLA on a money laundering charge.
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