Vijayan corroborates allegations of sum stolen during April 3 car robbery
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday corroborated the allegation that the sum stolen during the April 3 car robbery that has triggered money-laundering charges against the BJP was Rs 3.5 crore.
He told the Assembly that following investigations, the police had added several IPC sections such as 412 (receiving stolen property), 212 (harbouring offender) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) to the original case of dacoity (Section 395).
This should widen the scope of the case, in connection with which the police have questioned several BJP leaders apart from arresting 20 suspects.
Vijayan said the police had recovered Rs 1.12 crore in cash from the suspects while seizing 347 grams of gold jewellery, mobile phones and wrist-watches bought with the booty.
Shamjeer, the owner of the car who was travelling with RSS worker Dharmarajan when the robbers struck in Thrissur district, had said in the FIR that the sum stolen was Rs 25 lakh.
However, police sources had cited alleged confessions by those arrested to claim the amount was Rs 3.5 crore, buttressing charges that the BJP was using hawala money to influence the April 6 elections. The chief minister has now provided the first official corroboration of the figure.
Vijayan emphasised the hawala angle, saying the BJP-led central government’s note withdrawal of 2016 had failed to stop the circulation of unaccounted money.
“When the demonetisation was announced on November 8, 2016, the central government had told the people it was a surgery to eradicate black money,” he said, while replying to Congress MLA Shafi Parambil’s notice for an adjournment motion on the matter, which the Speaker denied.
“But it’s going to be five years since the demonetisation — we need to examine what it achieved apart from wreaking havoc on the unorganised sector and the common people.”
Vijayan said the special investigation team (SIT) had so far recorded the statements of 96 witnesses.
He denied allegations by the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the BJP, which has no representation in the Assembly, that the state government was deliberately keeping the Enforcement Directorate (ED) away from the case.
He said the SIT had provided all the details of the case to the ED on June 1 following a May 27 letter from the central agency, which is mandated to probe money-laundering.
A CPM ally has petitioned Kerala High Court to direct the ED to probe the case saying the agency had ignored his letters asking it to step in.
On Monday, leader of the Opposition and Congress member V.D. Satheesan demanded in the Assembly that the ED and the income-tax department be brought in.
Satheesan alleged the state government and the police were going slow on the case and aired the suspicion of a deal.
“Since you both (LDF and the BJP) have cases against each other, there is a suspicion that the two of you would settle this case.”
Satheesan alleged the ED had stopped probing the gold smuggling case — in which several CPM members and an official close to Vijayan are implicated —just before the state polls.
“Apart from arresting those involved in the highway robbery, this government is not ready to arrest anyone else,” Satheesan said, apparently alluding to the BJP leaders questioned in the case.
Parambil too mentioned the demonetisation, saying it had only enhanced the flow of unaccounted money, especially to the BJP.
“Almost Rs 10 crore was brought from Karnataka with just a few days left for the state (Kerala) polls. The cash stolen (from the car) was what remained after much of the money had been distributed in several districts,” he said.
The BJP will launch a state-wide agitation on June 10 accusing the state government of framing its leaders in false cases, state BJP vice-president A.N. Radhakrishnan told a news conference.