National

Graft charge against Kareem gives Chandy a fig leaf

KPM Basheer Kochi | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on May 22, 2015

Elamaram Kareem

Malabar Cements deals put former Industries Minister under a cloud

It was an anniversary “gift” to the scam-tainted Oommen Chandy government in Kerala, which managed to complete four years in office this week. It was also a totally unexpected hit for the Opposition, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front.

In a media leak, the former managing director of the Kerala government-owned Malabar Cements factory at Walayar has alleged that former Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem had a role in the corrupt deals at the factory, which has piled up huge losses over the years.

Allegations

Former MD Sunderamurthy alleged that, in 2010, Minister Kareem, a CITU leader and a member of the CPI(M)’s central committee, had accepted a cash envelop presented by controversial businessman Chaaku Radhakrishnan through a middleman. He also alleged that Radhakrishnan had vast clout in the factory’s running and recruitments (because of his associations with senior politicians and his business deals with the factory). In fact, Sunderamurthy reportedly noted in his statement that he himself was “selected” as the MD by Radhakrishnan.

Victimisation

Malabar Cements’ company secretary V Saseendran, a whistle blower who had tried to expose Radhakrishnan’s corrupt deals, was found dead along with his two teenage sons a few years ago.

A CBI investigation found the three had committed suicide because of the frequent harassment and threats to Saseendran by Radhakrishanan. In 2011, Radhakrishnan was charged with abetting the three suicides. He is also an accused in at least four corrupt deals associated with Malabar Cements. The allegation against such a senior CPI(M) leader has come as great relief to the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), which has been rattled by a series of scandals. But the most serious allegation — that Finance Minister KM Mani had taken a bribe of ₹1 crore as the first instalment of ₹5 crore offered by liquor bar owners.

The allegation, played out on TV channels and in newspapers on a daily basis for a year now, has caused fissures in the UDF, factional fights within the Congress and the prospect of the UDF losing the upcoming municipal elections and next year’s Assembly elections. Kareem has promptly denied the bribe allegation. However, UDF leaders are overjoyed, as . they now possess a very effective weapon to counter the Opposition’s campaign against KM Mani’s alleged bribe-taking. The Kareem episode has all of a sudden energised the sulking UDF.

Senior leaders have called for a CBI inquiry into the allegation. The memories of Saseendran and his sons are being resurrected.

Meanwhile, the Comptroller and Auditor General has stated that corruption and mismanagement at the cement factory had caused a loss of ₹108 crore during 2010-13.

Published on May 22, 2015
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