By Premendra Agrawal
In 2004, a rift between the Congress and the Communist Party of China was signed by Rahul Gandhi. It was in a way a ruse with the Chinese government.
Just like Rahul Gandhi, the Chief Minister of Kerala, Vijayan did not sign a direct agreement with the UAE but did an MoU with the UAE company Red Crescent as the Kerala government could not directly compromise with the UAE government.
Red Crescent signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kerala government as the state cannot directly sign such an agreement with a foreign country, especially to avail financial assistance.
The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Consul-General of the Thiruvananthapuram consulate in Kerala had allegedly violated the provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in signing a contract with a private firm to construct buildings under the State LIFE Mission Project providing houses for the homeless.
Local media said that according to the memorandum of understanding (MoU), a copy of which has now become public, only UAE Red Crescent could sign such a contract with the private construction firm, Unitac Builders and Developments.
The Kerala government and Red Crescent signed an MoU in July last year to construct 147 flats on 2.17 acres of land at Wadakkancherry in Thrissur district under the project.
Besides the flats, a hospital was also to be developed on government land.
Red Crescent signed the MoU with the Kerala government as the State cannot directly sign such an agreement with a foreign country, especially to avail of financial assistance.
Such a move would be in violation of FCRA.
Now, both the original signatories to the MoU, the Kerala government and Red Crescent, are not part of the contract signed for the construction of the building.
The LIFE (Livelihood, Inclusion and Financial Empowerment) Mission project has also been silent on who the project consultant would be.
The project, a pet project of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, envisages providing houses to the homeless and landless in the State.
As per the MoU, Red Crescent would provide 10 million UAE dirham (Rs 20.18 crore) to the Kerala government for building a housing complex and a hospital.
But in the contract for the building, the UAE consulate has directly signed two contracts, one with Unitac for the housing complex at a cost of Rs 14.24 crore and another for a women and children’s hospital for Rs 6.10 crore with Sane ventures, an arm of Unitac.
The housing project has come under scrutiny after one of the prime accused in the gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh, reportedly told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that she had got a commission of Rs 1 crore for helping the State government in getting the funds.
The NIA is investigating the gold smuggling case as it is feared to have national security and defence ramifications.
With so many details coming out, the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing the hawala trading angle in the gold smuggling case, and the Ministry of External Affairs have sought a copy of the MoU.
The Ministry of External Affairs, in particular, has been worried over violations of FCRA.
Details are now being sought to know if the Centre’s permission had been sought by Kerala to sign the MoU with Red Crescent.
Reports said that the State Law Department had suggested changes in the MoU but suspended principal secretary M Sivasankar, who is alleged to have links with Swapna, had ignored the suggestions.
The gold smuggling case came to light on 5 July this year after Customs Department seized diplomatic baggage meant for the UAE Consulate General with 30 kg of gold.
The Kerala government has launched the Jeevan Mission Scheme to ensure housing for the homeless poor in the state.
Life Mission: There is no end to the crisis of homeless poor in Kerala
The Kerala government has launched the Jeevan Mission Scheme to ensure housing for the homeless poor in the state.
A project under this scheme is at Charlaparambu in Vadakkancheri municipality in Thrissur district. It is being built with assistance of Rs 20 crore from UAE-based Red Crescent. However, the project was mired in controversy after the revelations that the building contractor – Unitech – had bribed the middlemen for Rs 4.25 lakh after winning the contract. The middleman, Swapna Suresh, p. S. Sarath and Sandeep Nair are the main accused in the sensational gold smuggling case.
The revelation has raised concerns about the quality of the flats that will be delivered.
The project site is about 200 feet above ground level. The construction company has to spend water not only in bringing the construction material, but also to the site facing severe water shortage.
According to locals, in some residential areas of Charalparambu, water can not be found even after digging tubewells to depths of 300 to 400 feet. Being so, it is very unlikely that the Jeevan Mission flats which will be 50 feet above these residential areas will get clean water.
One of the projects under the scheme is in Charalparambu in Wadakkanchery municipality in Thrissur district. It is being built with Rs 20 crore assistance from the UAE-based Red Crescent. However, the project got mired in controversy after revelations that the building contractor – Unitec – had paid a bribe of Rs 4.25 lakh to intermediaries after it won the contract. The intermediaries are Swapna Suresh, P S Sarith and Sandeep Nair, the prime accused in the sensational gold smuggling case.
The revelation has raised concerns about the quality of flats that will be delivered.
The project site is about 200-feet above the ground level. The construction company has had to spend a huge amount of money not only in bringing construction materials but also water to the site that faces huge water scarcity.
According to locals, in some of the residential areas in Charalparambu, water couldn’t be found even after digging tube-wells to a depth of 300 to 400 feet. That being the case, it is highly unlikely that the Life Mission flats which will be 50 feet above these residential areas will get clean water.
Now, the government says that those who had filed the appeal should apply again for a house. But for many landless poor, it is a herculean task to arrange for the documents required to make the application — they have to get an income certificate, a certificate stating that they have no house or land, and a caste certificate if the applicant belongs to the Scheduled Castes.
Those very weak economically and are sick got some help when the government said they can be admitted through special permission. Some people were included under this category, but the actual number is quite low. You could say they were lucky, given how some people, like Suhra who lives in Chettamkunnu in Thalassery in Kannur district, have been running from pillar to post to get the benefit.
4.25 crore rupees bribe can be funded in 106 houses under Kerala Life Mission…
Why was the housing mission withdrawn?
The bribe will have houses funded for the other 106 people under the life mission.
The bribe would ultimately affect the quality of construction as contractors would have to construct the same number of flats in a lower budget.
There remains a question as to who will be held responsible if flats develop defects. Construction sector experts say that when more than 20 percent of the project amount is spent on bribes, it will affect the quality and safety of the project.
Apart from this, the contractor also violated foreign exchange rules, as it paid around 3 crore rupees in dollars. Investigation agencies are now investigating how the contractor converted such a large amount into dollars.
Thiruvananthapuram: The government allegedly moved out to exclude Project Management Consultant Habitat from Life Mission’s housing project at Vadakkanchuri in Thrissur.
Habitat was not informed even after private company Unitac Builders started construction.
On 31 October 2019, Habitat withdrew its support from the project, as it was reported that pre-fabrication technology would be used. However, Thaattbahladdadh Builders started concrete construction on 29 August itself.
Habitat, an agency approved by Life Mission, was the project management consultant for five districts including Thrissur.
Habitat had revised the detailed project report on Vadakkanari several times as demanded by the mission.
Meanwhile on August 2, 2019, the Life Mission announced that the project was put on hold indefinitely, citing issues related to sponsorship.
For detailed information link:
The project was offered for Rs 20 crore 22 days after the signing of the agreement with the UAE-based Red Crescent Authority. During a meeting held at the Life Mission office two months later, Habitat was informed that pre-fab technology would be used.
Kerala’s Education Minister, top official caught in Quran smuggling, said big case
new Delhi. Central agencies investigating the sensational gold smuggling case in Kerala have now focused their investigation on importing sacred books without proper documentation through diplomatic avenues in the state. Official sources gave this information on Sunday. A source in the high position said that the agencies were investigating whether the Holy Quran or other smuggled goods were brought from the UAE without proper documentation.
The top officer investigating the case said, “It seems that this is a very big case. The official said that Kerala’s Higher Education Minister KT Jalil is on the target of the central agencies who have publicly claimed that Ramadan The month brought the Thiruvananthapuram consignment containing a copy of the Holy Quran for distribution in his constituency. “
Earlier on social media, Jalil admitted that he had received copies of the Holy Quran from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. Significantly, Jalil’s name is also registered in the phone of Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the gold smuggling case. Jalil said that he made contact over the phone like a full-time Peshawar.
The agencies say that even from where the goods were sent, its documentation was not done and now it is being investigated how the goods were brought through the aircraft. The agencies apprehend that along with this goods other items of smuggling were also present and this may have happened with the collusion of the Security Service.
Officials said that since documentation was not done at the place of sending goods on such a large scale, it would have been done illegally by the Security Service of the Foreign Service. The airline carrier which brought the goods is being questioned in this case.
The Customs Department, the National Investigation Agency and the Enforcement Directorate are investigating the transport of goods by the state government institute through the Ministry of Jalil. When the customs officer was asked whether a summon would be sent to the minister for questioning as he had accepted the call for Quran. To this, the officer said, “prima facie it is a violation of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FCRA)”. Meanwhile, Jalil said that he is ready to face any kind of investigation.
The central agencies are believed to have informed the Ministry of Home Affairs about the alleged violation of FCRA by the Kerala government minister. It is worth noting that several agencies including the National Investigation Agency, Customs Department and Enforcement Directorate are investigating this case and many people including the main accused Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair and Sarith PS have been arrested.
New twist in gold smuggling: Swapna gets big bribe in Kerala government housing project
Swapna Suresh allegedly received a commission from the builders for an apartment building under the Life Mission at Vadakkanchery, Thrissur.
On Wednesday, 19 August, 2020, in a new twist in the disputed Kerala gold smuggling case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has revealed that Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the case, had received money from a builder as a commissioner, The state government had made a plan, called the Life Mission Project. The ED on Tuesday revealed the latest information in a special court of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases in Ernakulam, which was hearing Swapna’s bail plea.
ED’s special prosecutor TA Unnikrishnan said that Swapna and another person from the UAE consulate received a commission from Unitech Builders and Developers (located outside Kochi), which helped them in the contract for the construction of a sponsored apartment complex in Dubai . Based non-governmental organization called Red Crescent. According to reports, Swapna had demanded a 6-year project budget as a commission from the builders for the apartment building under the Life Mission at Vadakkanari in Thrissur district. These apartments were being built for the homeless and landless in Kerala.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between UAE Red Crescent and the Government of Kerala on 11 July 2019 for Rs 20 crore. However, it makes no mention of Unitach or those with whom the contract will be awarded. Its 6-year commission would be Rs 1.2 crore, although some reports said the bribe was worth Rs 4 crore. The UAE Red Crescent Authority is part of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The latest revelation came to light when the National Investigation Agency (NIA) found discrepancies in the statement made by Swapna about the contents in her locker, where an amount of Rs 1 crore (and 1 kg of gold) was recovered in July. Unitech has given a statement to the NIA on the same. While Swapna’s lawyer had earlier stated that Swapna had received the amount and gold as a gift and had been accounted for, she later revealed that she had received money as commission to get the housing project approved.
In this case, the name of M Shivshankar, former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Kerala, has also come up. According to the Times of India, the Consul General of the UAE had allegedly asked the construction company officials to meet Shivshankar. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala also alleged that Shivshankar supported Unitech, which was awarded the project under the government scheme.
The ED also said that Swapna jointly opened the locker with a third person on Shivshankar’s instructions and deposited the bribe money there.
After the development, the leader of opposition in Kerala, Ramesh Chennithala, alleged that the project could not have taken place without the knowledge of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan as Uttaradhra “directly supervises the life mission project”.
Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the Dubai unit of Red Crescent did not inform the Kerala unit about the project and donated the money (Rs 20 crore) directly to the state government without the approval of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). He also demanded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of Kerala and Red Crescent as evidence. “The government has not yet responded to my demand,” he said.
The ED registered an enforcement case on the basis of a case lodged by the NIA against four of the prime gold smuggling suspects – Sarith PS, Swapna, Fazil Farid and Sandeep Nair. He was arrested on 22 July while in NIA custody. Swapna was questioned by the ED on August 13, when she revealed her affair with Shivshankar.
Santosh Santosh, owner of Unitech, told Asianet that Swapna and Sandeep acted as middlemen in the entire deal. “We went to Thiruvananthapuram and met UAE Red Crescent officials through their former staffer, Yedu. This person was a friend of Sandeep. Due to language barriers, Swapna spoke to officials in Arabic and managed the entire deal. Us 14 crores have been received so far, and the funds have been received directly from the account of the UAE Consulate at Axis Bank’s Karamna branch, “he said, adding that he has only worked as a contractor and with him in the case of gold smuggling Do not behave.