MLA Ebrahim Kunju held in Palarivattom flyover scam

IUML MLA Ebrahim Kunju arrested in Palarivattom flyover scam

The arrest came as another major embarrassment for the Congress-led Opposition in Kerala as well as the IUML

The flyover on National Highway 66 bypass at Palarivattom in Kochi was constructed at a cost for Rs 42 crore and commissioned in October 2016. Credit: iStock Photo

V K Ebrahim Kunju, former public works minister of Kerala and Indian Union Muslim League MLA, was arrested by the Kerala Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Wednesday in connection with the alleged corruption in the construction of a flyover at Kochi that had to be reconstructed hardly three years after its commissioning due to poor quality.

The arrest came as another major embarrassment for the Congress-led Opposition in Kerala as well as the IUML, which is a key coalition partner of Congress. IUML MLA of Manjeshwar, M C Kamaruddin, was recently arrested in connection with cheating over a hundred investors in his jewellery business.

The Opposition is terming the moves as politically motivated aimed at diverting attention from the embarrassments being caused to the ruling Left Front because of the gold smuggling case as well as the arrest of CPM leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan's son Bineesh in connection with Bengaluru drug trafficking case, that too on the eve of the local body polls. The fresh moves assumed more political significance as Kerala is heading for local body polls next month and the Assembly election is hardly five months away.

Ebrahim Kunju, who is an MLA representing Kalamassery in Kochi, was earlier arraigned as the fifth accused in the corruption case registered in connection with the flyover construction. He was earlier quizzed and his house raided.

On Wednesday morning, a vigilance team reached Kunju's house in Kochi. But he got admitted to a private hospital in Kochi by Tuesday night, suspected to have done after getting information regarding the vigilance team's move. The vigilance team later went to the hospital and recorded his arrest, sources said.

The flyover on National Highway 66 bypass at Palarivattom in Kochi was constructed at a cost for Rs 42 crore and commissioned in October 2016. But it had to be closed in May 2019  following safety concerns. Metro man E Sreedharan and experts from IIT Madras inspected the flyover and found cracks in 97 out of the 102 girders and 16 of the 18 pier caps. Hence it was proposed that it be demolished and reconstructed. The reconstruction cost was estimated at Rs 18.5 crore and the estimated time required was ten months. The reconstruction began in September.

Former public works secretary T O Sooraj was earlier arrested in this connection. 

The Roads and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala, an agency under the Kerala government, initiated the flyover project. Bengaluru-based Nagesh Consultants designed it and Delhi-based RDS Projects constructed it. Another Kerala government agency, KITCO, was the technical consultant. Officials of these agencies were also arraigned in the vigilance case.

Meanwhile, Kunju is also under Enforcement Directorate's scanner in connection with allegations of depositing Rs10 crore illegally-earned money in the account of IUML's mouthpiece in Kerala. The ED had recently quizzed Kunju in this connection.