Top Kerala bureaucrat indicted in flyover case

Mohammed Hanish has denied the Vigilance Bureau’s charges of corruption in the construction of the bridge at Kochi.

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Thursday indicted Kerala’s Industries Secretary A.P.M. Mohammed Hanish for corruption in the “shoddy” construction of the recently decommissioned flyover bridge at Palarivattom in Kochi.

Mr. Hanish was the managing director of the Road and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala (RBDCK) at the time of implementation of the scheme.

Officials at the VACB here said the agency filed an addendum in the court of the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge, Vigilance, Muvattupuzha, naming Mr. Hanish as the 10th accused in the corruption case.

The VACB alleged that Mr. Hanish had recommended to the government to advance ₹9 crore to the builder as a loan to expedite the work. He allegedly wrote a letter to the then Public Works Secretary T.O. Sooraj, currently an accused in the corruption case, seeking a credit advance for the builder.

The agency alleged that the Public Works Department (PWD) had subsequently extended a loan to the builder at a nominal rate interest and brazenly advantageous terms of repayment, thus stacking the decks in favour of the borrower at considerable loss to the public exchequer.

The VACB also accused the government of not ensuring a security deposit from the contractor.

Officials said the PWD had initially decided not to award the contract to financially unsound builders. It had also ruled out extending credit to those who undertake public works.

However, the PWD had waived the stipulations for the private builder as a one-off case, pointing to favouritism, the agency alleged.

It said that the government’s ‘largesse’ to the builder had, by a conservative estimate, cost the public exchequer ₹82 lakh in terms of interest alone. It pegged the total loss to exchequer caused by the faulty construction at more than ₹30 crore.

Mr. Hanish had denied the charges. By one account, Mr. Hanish stated that he had merely forwarded a letter from the builder seeking a ‘mobilisation advance’ to jump-start the project to the PWD. Mr. Hanish had also denied that he had indulged in any corruption.

Seeks medical report

Meanwhile, the VACB has sought the formation of a medical board to ascertain the health condition of former Public Works Minister V.K. Ebrahim Kunju, MLA, who was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the Palarivattom flyover construction scam.

The VACB, which sought the custody of the legislator till November 21 before the court of the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge, Vigilance, Muvattupuzha, wanted his health condition to be evaluated as Mr. Kunju was admitted to a private hospital for medical treatment.

Mr. Kunju was intentionally refusing to cooperate with the investigation and reluctant to reveal what he knew. Hence, his custodial interrogation was inevitable for the investigation of the case, the agency submitted.

Sumeet Goyal, managing director of RDS Projects Limited; V.V. Nagesh of Nagesh Consultancy, Bengaluru; T.O. Sooraj, former Public Works Secretary; and officials of Kitco and the Roads and Bridges Development Corporation, Kerala are the other accused in the case.

The allegation against the accused is that they conspired and committed criminal misconduct by abusing their official positions as public servants.

They, by corrupt or illegal means, acted without any public interest causing pecuniary advantage to RDS Projects Limited and corresponding loss to the State government.

There was also reasons to believe that the accused persons gained undue pecuniary advantage in the work of the flyover, which was a substandard one, the agency submitted.

The accused compromised on the quality and quantity of the materials used for the constriction of the flyover, thereby jeopardising public safety.

Counsel for Mr. Kunju, who denied the allegations of corruption, sought time for submitting more documents in the case.

The agency wanted the custody of the accused till November 21. The court will consider the custody application on November 24.

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