Chandy in spot over aides' involvement with fraudsters

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has found himself in a spot over alleged links between his office and a woman arrested on charges of financial fraud.

The chief minister on Friday stated that the two staff members under scanner — personal assistant Tenny Joppan and gunman Salimraj — would be “kept aside” as an investigation was being carried out.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF)-led opposition, however, pitched for more stringent measures, and called for Chandy’s resignation and a judicial inquiry into the allegations.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government is running into rougher weather as reports emerged on telephone calls made by the arrested woman to a number of ministers and political leaders.

The calls between the CM’s staff members and Sarita S Nair — who was arrested earlier this month for duping people after promising them investment in solar and wind energy projects — rocked the Assembly session on Friday, ending in an opposition walkout.

Sarita, 35, along with a now-absconding accomplice identified as Biju Radhakrishnan, had reportedly lured investors into non-existent solar and wind energy projects. The duo posed as proprietors of the Kochi-based company Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions, and claimed that they had connections with influential ministers and politicians. Sarita was on Friday denied bail by a local court.

She was sent to two weeks’ custody on Thursday. Meanwhile, an interim report of the investigation was submitted to the CM, following which he ordered a full probe into the calls.

However, the opposition parties, under deputy leader of the opposition Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, maintained that the gravity of the issue demanded a judicial inquiry and required the chief minister to step down to ensure a fair probe.

Chandy told reporters later that making telephone calls was not a crime, but that he has asked the two staff members to step aside to ensure transparency in the probe.

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