Kerala hands solar scandal probe to CBI
Kerala’s Party of India (Marxist)-led government on Sunday unexpectedly decided to hand over a probe of the Team Solar scandal, which almost led to the fall of the Oomen Chandy regime seven years ago, to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) just months ahead of assembly elections due to take place in the state.
The move came after Chandy was made chief of the Congress party’s election management committee for the polls.
The scandal centred around a fictitious solar energy company called Team Solar formed in 2013 by an alleged con woman named Saritha Nair and second husband, Biju Radhakrishnan, who boasted of their contacts with the chief minister’s office, and cheated people out of money by seeking investments with the promise of making them business partners or offering to install solar power units. Chandy was then the Kerala CM.
With the transfer of the case to the CBI, the Left Front government has ensured that two women-- Nair and Swapna Suresh, the principal suspect in a gold smuggling racket unearthed in July -- will be among the central characters in the campaign for the assembly elections due in April-May.
The opposition Congress said it was a politically motivated move by the Pinarayi Vijayan government with an eye on the assembly elections.The party will deal with it legally and politically, it said.
Nair petitioned Vijayan last week complaining that she was yet to receive justice in sexual assault cases she filed against many Congress leaders ,and called for a probe by a central agency.
The government moved quickly to counter the opposition’s campaign against it over the gold smuggling racket by acting on the request.
The solar scandal surfaced in 2014 and 60 cases were registered against Nair and her husband. Chandy sacked two of his private secretaries and the state public relations director when their names cropped up in the case.
The government also constituted a judicial commission to probe the case.
Interestingly, Nair was sentenced in at last six cases and is out on bail. In the 2019 parliament elections, she attempted to take on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Kerala’s Wayanad, but her nomination papers were rejected because of her conviction.
Last year, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea by her questioning Gandhi’s election and imposed a fine of ₹10,000 on her.
“At least three senior police officers investigated the case and found no evidence to prove her claims. For almost five years, the government sat over the case and explored many ways to make it alive. Neck-deep in corruption, gold smuggling and drug trafficking charges, it dusted out an old case as a face-saver,” said senior Congress leader K C Joseph.
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