Kerala Assembly serves notice to ED on ‘Life Mission’ probe

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 7 : The Ethics Committee of the Kerala Assembly on Saturday served a notice to the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing the ‘Life Mission’, a pet housing project of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The committee served the notice to the ED Assistant Commissioner asking him to explain within a week the agency’s action in the Life Mission case as the project is accountable to the Assembly only.

The Ethics Committee was acting on a complaint by CPI-M legislator James Mathew, who said that the Life Mission was answerable only to the Assembly and the ED’s action were infringement of the Kerala Assembly.

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With this notice, it seems that a battle royale is in the offing between the Ethics Committee and the nation’s premier probe agency.

Meanwhile, in a quick move the ED has upgraded the status of the ED office at Kochi to a higher grade and appointed top IRS official Manish Godre as the joint director.

Till now the Kochi ED office was headed by an officer in the rank of deputy director and this new move is being seen as an important move by the agency while it is closing in on crucial cases like the gold smuggling and Life Mission.

Quick to slam the Kerala Assembly speaker P.Sreeramakrishnan for his move to serve a notice to the ED, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said, “It was strange that such a move has taken place as the ethics committee has no jurisdiction to seek an explanation from the ED, which is probing the financial frauds that have taken place”.

Trouble has been brewing for the state government ever since agencies like the NIA, Customs, ED, CBI and the Income Tax have been going in the cases, which surfaced after the Customs unearthed the gold smuggling case. P.S. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, was arrested by the Customs on July 5 when he was facilitating smuggling of 30 kg gold in diplomatic baggage to the state capital from Dubai.

Things turned murkier when the name of Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the Consulate and later employed with the IT Department, also surfaced. Her links with the now-suspended and arrested IAS officer M. Sivasankar, then posted as the Principal secretary to Vijayan and also the IT Secretary, came to light.

Though Vijayan last week went hammer and tongs against these agencies, he surprisingly has gone silent after the ED raided the residence of the powerful CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, here on Friday.

The Life Mission project, a pet project of Vijayan, was floated to build houses for the homeless and landless, using funds raised through sponsorships. The state’s role was limited to only providing the land.

But this project ran into trouble after it surfaced that Swapna Suresh was alleged to have received a huge commission out of the total project cost of Rs 20 crore allocated to build over 100 flats in Thrissur under the Life Mission, and the funds came from the UAE based charity organisation ‘Red Crescent’.

The CBI started its probe in September. The Vijayan government approached the Kerala high court last month seeking a stay. While the stay was not granted, the court ordered that for two months there should be no arrests of any Life Mission official, while it could go ahead with the probe with other parties in the project.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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