Kerala former minister held in flyover corruption case

Kerala former minister held in flyover corruption case

Ebrahim Kunju, an MLA from Kalamassery in Kochi, was listed as the fifth accused in the corruption case registered in connection with the flyover construction

Representative image/Credit: iStock images

Kerala former public works minister and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) MLA V K Ebrahim Kunju was arrested by the Kerala Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Wednesday in connection with the alleged corruption in the construction of a fly-over 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 comprising the IUML. MLA of Manjeshwar, M C Kamaruddin from IUML, was recently arrested on charges of cheating over a hundred investors of his jewellery business. The fresh moves assumed more political significance as Kerala is heading for local body polls next month and Assembly election in hardly five months away.

Congress and IUML leaders said the move was politically motivated and aimed at diverting attention from the ruling Left Front mired in controversies due to the gold smuggling case and the arrest of CPM leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan's son Bineesh Kodiyeri in connection with Bengaluru drug trafficking case. The opposition charged the state government with misusing investigation agencies.

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

On Wednesday morning a vigilance team reached Kunju's house in Kochi. But he got admitted to a private hospital in Kochi by Tuesday evening. The vigilance team later went to the hospital and recorded his arrest. A vigilance special court judge remanded him in judicial custody for 14 days. But he would continue to be in the hospital.

The fly-over on NH-66 at Palarivattom in Kochi was built at a cost for Rs 42 crore and commissioned in October 2016. It had to be closed in May 2019 following safety concerns. Metro man E Sreedharan and experts from IIT Madras inspected the fly-over and found cracks in 97 out of the 102 girders and 16 of the 18 pier caps, and suggested demolishing and reconstructing it. The reconstruction that began in September was estimated at Rs 18.5 crore and the estimated time required was ten months.

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 fly-over 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 charged in the case.

Meanwhile, Kunju is under Enforcement Directorate's scanner in connection with allegations of depositing Rs 10 crore in the account of IUML's mouthpiece in Kerala. The ED had recently quizzed Kunju in this connection.