VACB to summon Kunju after Budget session

Case relating to shoddy construction of Palarivattom flyover

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) will question former Public Works Minister and IUML legislator V.K. Ebrahim Kunju in connection with the flyover construction scam at Palarivattom in Kochi.

It wants to examine whether he had illegally channelled public funds to unduly aid the private firm responsible for the shoddy construction of the now decommissioned overpass and overlooked cautionary reports about the tawdry nature of the work.

The VACB is armed with an authorisation by the Governor to prosecute Mr. Kunju. It is likely to summon him for questioning when the Assembly concludes its Budget session.

The anti-corruption focus on Mr. Kunju in the run-up to the local body polls has discomfited the UDF, which is struggling to defend him in the high-profile corruption case. The arrest of former Public Works Secretary T. Sooraj in August 2019 had brought the probe to Mr. Kunju’s doorstep.

It marked a turning point in the case that caused a groundswell of public anger and became emblematic of political sleaze. Mr. Sooraj told investigators that Mr. Kunju had ordered the release of ₹9 crore in advance to the private builder as ‘mobilisation fund’ at a nominal rate of interest much less than that charged by nationalised banks. He pointed out the advance payment was outside the terms of the contract and illegal.

The VACB told the High Court later that the questionable ‘advance credit’ to the construction firm on terms favouring the private entity had caused the State exchequer an estimated loss of over ₹60 lakh.

The agency had argued in its affidavit that the Minister responsible for ‘suspiciously’ channelling public funds to assist a private entity in executing a civil work was in legal jeopardy under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The VACB has also found that PWD officials had fast-forwarded the payment of work bills submitted by the firm, allegedly overlooking reports from PWD supervisors warning against the low-grade nature of the construction.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kunju has sought to take defence behind the argument that as Minister, he could not possibly examine the quality and amount of concrete and steel used in the construction at the field level daily.

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