Sooraj drags former minister Ebrahim Kunju to Palarivattom flyover scam, is his arrest likely?

Ebrahim Kunju
Former Minister for Public Works V K Ebrahim Kunju

A top bureaucrat who has been accused in a scam related to the botched construction of a flyover at Palarivattom in Kochi said that former minister V K Ebrahim Kunju had ordered the release of advance funds to the builder.

Former public works secretary T O Sooraj also said that the Roads and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala Ltd (RBDC), an autonomous government body in charge of the construction of the bridge, had recommended the release of funds.

With Sooraj's revelations, the vigilance is likely to arrest former Minister for Public Works V K Ebrahim Kunju. There is evidence that Ebrahim Kunju was involved in the scam, according to vigilance officials sources.

The Vigilance has decided to summon him for further questioning. Meanwhile, more evidence including the files on construction, will be collected. A letter requesting the same will be submitted to the Chief Secretary.

T O Sooraj was also summoned in a similar manner before being arrested.

The flyover at the heart of the city, built in 2016, was deemed too dangerous to drive soon after. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the government had decided to rebuild the flyover rather than repair it.

Sooraj and three others were arrested by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on August 30 for irregularities in awarding the contracts and the shoddy construction. Construction company RDX managing director Sumit Goel, former KITCO managing director Benny Paul and RBDC assistant general manager P D Thankachan are the other people remanded along with Sooraj. An FIR submitted by the VACB before a court suggested the involvement of 17 people in the scam.

Ebrahim Kunju, now a legislator, may find the going tough. The VACB has reportedly informed the Kerala Legislative Assembly speaker about the imminent arrest of the MLA, sources said. The VACB has decided to interrogate Ebrahim Kunju in connection with the scam.

Ebrahim Kunju and his party leader P K Kunjalikutty, however, welcomed any investigation into the case. Kunjalikutty said in Thiruvananthapuram that Sooraj's allegations were baseless. He said that the Muslim League had probed the allegation and found that Ebrahim Kunju had merely sanctioned the proposal that had come for his perusal.

Sooraj pointed a finger at his former boss as he was brought to the court on Thursday. He had included the charge in his bail petition also. The court extended his remand until October 3. He told reporters that the proposal to release the fund was vetted by five superiors before it reached him. He said that the former minister had decided to grant the mobilisation fund interest-free but he corrected the papers to charge the company 7 percent interest on Rs 8.25 crore.

He said that there was nothing wrong in granting the amount in advance, as seen in the advance payment of Rs 25 lakh to the DMRC for the construction of the Edappally flyover.

When asked about the role of fellow bureucrat Muhammed Hanish, who was at the helm of the RBDC,

Sooraj said he did not want to name anyone. Hanish's name also features in the report submitted by the VACB.