Kerala bar scam: Fresh bribe allegations against two leaders

Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi, Feb 1 (IANS) Whistle-blower bar owner Biju Ramesh on Monday opened a new can of worms in Kerala, alleging that Rs.2 crore was paid to then state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala and Rs.25 lakh to Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar as bribes. Both leaders denied the charge.

Refuting Ramesh’s allegation, Chennithala, who is now the home minister, said that every time money is received as party fund, it is not only accounted but also audited.

Sivakumar also denied it, saying he deals with health issues and not with bars.

Ramesh had earlier alleged that bribes were paid to Excise Minister K. Babu and Finance Minister K.M. Mani — both of whom later resigned.

On Monday, he said the bar owners paid Rs.2 crore to Chennithala and Rs.25 lakh to Sivakumar.

“We (bar owners) handed over the money to Chennithala at his office in the state party headquarters and it was given to see that government policies when taken will not affect the bar owners.

“The money to Sivakumar was paid to his staff,” Ramesh told reporters.

State Congress president V.M. Sudheeran said things will have to be found out.

UDF leader Antony Raju told the media that the government has got “valuable leads” about the conspirators behind these revelations, and in the next few days more details will be coming out.

Meanwhile, Babu, who resigned after a lower court ordered further probe into the allegation of bribe given to him, returned to office on Monday, after the ruling United Democratic Front asked him to take back his resignation as the Kerala High Court gave him a reprieve.

“Who does not know that all that has happened in the bar issue is nothing but a well-planned conspiracy,” Babu said after resuming office in the state secretariat.

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