It has all the ingredients of a Bollywood potboiler — dubious deals, sex, murder and villains with political connections. And it has embroiled Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy’s aides.
In a scam that has rocked the state over the past week, a man accused of murdering his first wife and his estranged second wife made tens of crores of rupees by defrauding numerous unsuspecting investors looking for quick returns.
They did this by convincing them to put lakhs in schemes that seemed to have a bright future — import of solar power panels and setting up windmill farms. The schemes just did not exist.
The duo — Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha Nair — now under arrest, left a trail of shady deals spanning over a decade under the nose of political leaders.
Posing as senior officials of the Asian Development Bank, IMF, and a union minister’s aides, they assumed many roles to hoodwink people of their riches only to have a television channel expose them and create a furore in Kerala.
Their nexus with the powerful included Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy’s staff members, the state’s public relations director, other top officials and a senior police officer.
After identifying a victim, the duo would call him to a fancy hotel for discussions, after which he would be shown imported solar panels.
Once the victim was impressed, he would be given offers ranging from a dealership to shares in the company to working partnerships. Some were even taken to neighbouring Tamil Nadu to see big windmills.
After extracting the maximum from a victim, the duo would disappear and use their connections to browbeat him if he complained.
To maintain their image, Radhakrishnan and Nair frequented social gatherings and took snaps with the high and mighty and flaunted the pictures to dupe their victims.
However, their decade-long saga was cut short after a TV channel released a phone call list claiming that Nair, who was arrested on June 3, had made at least 60 calls to the CM’s office in the first week of May.
Minutes after the phone call details were aired, Radhakrishnan surfaced to claim that an illicit relationship between his ‘wife’ and a former minister had wrecked their family life and business.
Though Chandy sacked two of his aides and Kerala’s public relations director, the opposition has been baying for his resignation and preventing the assembly from functioning for the past three days.
“Chandy can’t get away by making his aides scapegoats. We want him to quit immediately,” demanded opposition leader VS Achuthanandan of the CPI(M).
But the chief minister insists he has done nothing improper: “I didn’t do anything wrong or favour anyone. Some of my staff members were in touch with them and they paid a price for it. Let the opposition pinpoint a single case. These scamsters thrived under all dispensations. But I am not pointing out what they did during the last LDF (Left Democratic Front) regime to justify what has happened now.”
Interestingly, the UN awarded Chandy last month for his mass contact programme but he is unlikely to have imagined that it would bring him brickbats as well.