Anti-corruption bureau to probe Kerala bar bribe controversy

Anti-corruption bureau to probe Kerala bar bribe controversy

Cornered by allegations against Kerala’s Finance Minister K M Mani that he had demanded money to revoke a ban on sub-standard bars, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government on Sunday ordered a “preliminary verification” of the allegations made by some of the bar hotel owners.

Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau would commence a preliminary inquiry based on a request from the Leader of the Opposition V S Achuthanandan.

Biju Ramesh, working president of the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association, on Friday alleged that Mani, chief of the Kerala Congress (M) – a powerful coalition partner in the ruling front – demanded Rs 5 crore to revoke a ban on 418 bars that were found wanting in maintenance of prescribed quality standards.

Ramesh alleged that Rs 1 crore was handed over to the minister. Other bar owners have also come out backing the allegation while Mani maintained that there was “conspiracy” behind the charges.

Meanwhile, opposition parties called for the resignation of the finance minister. While Achuthanandan sought a CBI investigation, CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said Mani should not continue as a minister when the inquiry was on.

Vijayan also demanded inclusion of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Excise Minister K Babu in the scope of the probe. CPI state secretary Pannian Raveendran called for Mani’s resignation and a judicial investigation by a sitting judge of the High Court.

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