Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Thursday acquitted eight persons, including the main accused, in the sensational murder of Kerala's young businessman Paul Muthoot George.
All the eight were earlier sentenced to life term by a special CBI court. However, the HC has not let off second accused 'Kaari' Satheesh, who had stabbed Paul to death.
Those absolved of murder charges were the first accused Jayachandran, Sathar, Sujith, Akash Sasidharan, Satheesh Kumar, Rajiv Kumar, Shino Paul and Faisal.
Since they have completed their sentence for other charges, it is expected that the eight persons could walk out of the jail soon. The high court had observed that the eight did not play a direct role in the murder and hence need to serve sentence for charges under other sections only, not murder.
Paul was stabbed to death on August 21, 2009, at Ponga junction on Alappuzha-Changanassery road. On the the fateful night, Paul Muthoot had attended a party at his resort at Chambakulam in Kerala's Alappuzha district. Two gangsters, Om Prakash and Puthenpalam Rajesh, were also with him when the incident occurred.
According to the investigators, Paul rammed his SUV into a motorcycle in an inebriated condition. The assailants happened to see this and chased the SUV to confront him. When they caught him near Nedumudy, they got into an altercation with him. The accused 'Kaari' Satheesh allegedly stabbed him to death.
'Kaari' Satheesh and his gang were on their way to carry out a hit job in Alappuzha over a vehicle accident.
Mired in controversies over the police probe, the case was handed over to the CBI by the high court in January 2010. Omprakash and Puthanpalam Rajesh, who were travelling with Paul in the SUV, later turned approvers in the case.
In September 2015, a special court held nine accused guilty of murder and awarded life sentence to all of them. The other four accused were given three years' rigorous imprisonment and fine.
The CBI special court judge R Raghu had also sentenced 17 persons, including the 13 in the murder case, to three years' RI and slapped a fine in a related quotation case. The judge had made it clear that the first nine accused, including 'Kaari' Satheesh, had a direct role in the murder of Paul.
Changanassery natives R Jayachandran, 'Kaari' Satheesh, S Sathar, S Sujith, Akash Sasisdharan aka Rajesh, J Sathish Kumar, R Rajiv Kumar, Shino aka Shino Paul, H Faisal, and Alappuzha natives M Abhi, M Riyas, K Siddique and A Ismail were among those sentenced.
Abhi and Riyas are siblings. The 13 accused sentenced in the murder case were also found guilty in the quotation case along with four others - Thiruvalla natives Hassan aka Santhosh Kumar, Sabeer, Sulfiqur and Pradeesh.
Paul M George was the executive director of the Kerala-based Muthoot M George group, which has interests in several areas including financing and hospitality industry.
• August 21, 2009: Paul George stabbed to death on Alappuzha-Changanassery road.
• August 25, 2009: Eleven members from a notorious gang were arrested.
• December 2, 2009: The high court asked the state police to submit the chargesheet.
• January 21, 2010: The high court orders transfer of the case to CBI.
• December 31, 2010: The CBI confirmed the finding of the state police that Paul George was killed in an accidental encounter with a team of gangsters. The chargesheet, naming 18 accused was submitted.
• September, 2015: CBI special court convicts all accused.
• September 5, 2019: HC acquits all accused except one.