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Bar bribery case; Vigilance gives Mani a clean chit

mani k m_7Thiruvananthapuram: The report of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB), that probed bribery allegations against Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani for renewal of bar licence, said that the minister had not showed any special interest to re-open the closed 418 bars that were shut down following the new liquor policy of the UDF government.

“There is no evidence to prove that Mani demanded bribe or that he was bribed. Bar owners had gone to Mani’s house in Pala with Rs 15 lakh in cash. But there is no proof that they handed it over to Mani,” the report said.

The report goes onto say that the cabinet decisions regarding bar licence were taken collectively.

“The results of the lie-detection test conducted on Ambili, the driver of bar hotelier and petitioner Biju Ramesh is not reliable. “The CD which contained sound clips that Biju Ramesh submitted in the court were not authoritative,” the report filed in the Vigilance Court, said.

“There is no evidence of demand and acceptance of bribe by Mani. Not even a single witness has stated that Mani had demanded money or that he accepted money,” Vigilance sources said.

The court will consider the report on Thursday.

R Sukesan, SP, VACB, submitted the final report before the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge John Illekadan and sought closure of the case against Mani. The 54-page report recorded statements 337 witnesses including Biju Ramesh.

The case against Mani, who is Kerala Congress (M) supremo, was registered on the basis of charge by Biju Ramesh, after CPM veteran and state Opposition Leader V S Achuthanandan filed a complaint before the Vigilance seeking a probe.

After a ‘Quick Verification’, Vigilance registered an FIR in the case in December last. The allegation was that Mani had demanded Rs five crore and received Rs one crore from the Association for renewal of licence of 470 Foreign Liquor bars between March 20 and April 2 last year.

CPM-led LDF Opposition had been on a warpath demanding Mani’s resignation since the scam broke in November 2014. The state Assembly also witnessed unprecedented violence over the issue when LDF members tried to prevent Mani from presenting the budget on March 13.

Biju Ramesh had levelled charges against Mani in November last after the Congress-led UDF government came out with its landmark liquor policy, leading to closure of all 700 foreign liquor bars operated in hotels below the five-star category.

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