Sivasankar arraigned as fifth accused in Kerala LIFE Mission scam

Sivasankar was found to have received an iPhone as a gift from the private firm

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The Kerala Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau (VACB) has arraigned chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan's former principal secretary M Sivasankar as an accused in a corruption case registered in connection with irregularities in awarding the contract of a housing project to a private firm.

Sivasankar was found to have received an iPhone as a gift from the private firm that got the contract for the Rs 20 crore housing project under Kerala Government’s Life Mission programme in Wadakkanchery, in Thrissur district. One of the iPhones purchased by Unitac Company was allegedly given to Sivasankar by gold smuggling case key accused Swapna Suresh.

Sivasankar has been made fifth accused along with Swapna Suresh, Sarith and Sandeep Nair who are sixth, seventh and eighth accused respectively in the case.

A report in this regard has been filed by the VACB before the vigilance special court in Thiruvananthapuram. The vigilance argument is that even if a government official accepts an iPhone as a gift or commission, it would be treated as a bribe under the anti corruption law.

Sivasankar is currently in the custody of Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the money trail in the Kerala gold smuggling case. The vigilance is likely to question him once his ED custody period ends.

The vigilance case against Sivasankar has come as a major setback for the government as the officer was monitoring at least five mega projects including Life Mission. The investigation agency has already sought details of the projects which were monitored by Sivasankar.

The Wadakkanchery LIFE mission housing project corruption case pertains to the alleged payment of Rs 9 crore as commission to various persons including government officials and middlemen.

The Rs 20-crore housing project is sponsored by UAE based NGO Red Crescent.

Earlier the CBI had initiated a separate probe into the matter following a complaint filed by Congress MLA Anil Akkkara regarding violation of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. He alleged that the foreign funds for the housing project was received by private construction companies; Unitact Builders and Developers and its subsidiary Sane Ventures which amounted to violation of the provisions of FCRA.

However, the high court stayed the CBI probe for two months following a petition filed by the government questioning the maintainability of the central agency’s investigation into FCRA violation.

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