Palm oil deal glare on Chandy

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 9.08.11
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Thiruvananthapuram, Aug. 8 (PTI): A vigilance court here today ordered investigation into Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy’s role in a palm oil import deal when he was the finance minister in the K. Karunakaran government in 1992.

Chandy today offered to step down and face the case “legally and morally” but was restrained from doing so by leaders of the Congress and other ruling UDF constituents as he was not chargesheeted, sources said.

“I welcome the probe. I have conveyed my stand to the high command,” Chandy said.

Rejecting the Opposition LDF’s demand for Chandy’s resignation, the Kerala state Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala said: “He is totally innocent and no one can implicate him.”

Sources, however, hinted that Chandy might give up the charge of the vigilance department as a matter of propriety.

Passing the order, special vigilance judge P.K. Haneefa rejected the report filed by investigators three months ago stating that there was no ground for any further probe in the case.

Today’s order asked the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau to submit its investigation report by November 10.

The long-pending corruption case had led to the exit of P.J. Thomas as the CVC as his name figured as an accused in the case in his capacity as food secretary when the palm oil import deal was signed.

Karunakaran was the first accused.

The case pertained to import of 32,000 tonnes of palm oil from Malaysia causing a loss of Rs 2.32 crore to the exchequer.

The LDF went after Chandy today asking if it was proper for him to remain in office.

According to UDF sources, today Chandy made it clear he was prepared to quit but was restrained by the Congress as well as other UDF constituents.

The central leadership also reportedly told him not to take any that step as the situation did not warrant such action.

The sources said Chandy talked over phone to defence minister A.K. Antony, a member of the Congress core committee formed by party chief Sonia Gandhi to look after affairs in her absence.