In a new twist in the solar scam, the prime accused in the case on Wednesday accused Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague Arayadan Mohammed of accepting bribe, a charge both denied.
Deposing before the Justice Sivarajan Commission probing the alleged scam in Kochi, Saritha S. Nair alleged that Rs 1.90 crore had been given to Chandy's key aide for facilitating setting up mega solar projects in the state. She also alleged she had paid a bribe of Rs 40 lakh to the PA of Power Minister Aryadan Muhammed. Chandy denied the charges saying it was "an attempt by Saritha to wriggle out" of the case.
"Let her state what benefit she got after bribing us," Chandy toldreporters in Thiruvanthapuram. The cheques Saritha had handed over for relief fund had also bounced, he said.
"I have not helped her in any way. The Commission will come out with all the truth. Saritha was given a lot of opportunties to tell her version," Chandy who had deposed before the commission for a marathon 14 hours in Thiruvananthapuram on January 25, said.
Saritha alleged that Chandy's former PA Jikkumon, who had sought Rs seven crore as bribe, had insisted that the money meant for Chandy be handed over to one Thomas Kuruvilla in Delhi. Kuruvilla was claimed to be Chandy's unofficial aide. "I handed over Rs 1.10 crore to Kuruvilla at the parking ground of a shopping mall in Chandni Chowk," she told the Commission, two days after Chandy deposed before it.
Saritha said she had met the CM on December 27, 2012 at Vigyan Bhawan when he was about to leave for the airport after attending a meeting of the National Development Council.
It was Kuruvilla who facilitated the meeting with the Chief Minister outside Vigyan Bhawan, Saritha claimed. "He (the Chief Minister) asked me how are things? I told him money is with me. He told me to contact Kuruvilla and said he did not wait for the (NDC) meeting to conclude and was leaving for airport a bit early to catch the flight (to Kerala)," Saritha told the Commission.
Saritha said before leaving for the airport to see off the Chief Minister, Kuruvilla had told her to wait for him at the car parking of the shopping mall at Chandni Chowk. "Kuruvilla came to the car parking two hours after seeing off the Chief Minister. I had reached the mall in a car with Dheeraj. I sat with Kuruvilla in the car....I handed over Rs 1.10 crore to Kuruvilla. He invited me for tea when we came out of the parking ground. We had tea together...," she told the Commission.
Saritha also alleged Kuruvilla took Rs 80 lakh from her house in Idappazhanji in Thiruvananthapuram. "It was about 12 to 14 days ahead of my arrest," she said. Saritha said it was Chandy who told her to meet Aryadan Muhammed to start solar project in cooperation with ANERT. She alleged that after hard bargaining with the Minister at his Manmohan Bungalow in Thiruvananthapuram, his PA took Rs 25 lakh from her.
An amount of Rs 15 lakh was given to his PA during a conference on electricity at a hall in Kottayam, she alleged.
Chandy said Keralites will not believe the allegations. "Will anyone believe Saritha had given crores?', he asked.
On his deposition before the Commission, Chandy said the panel was consituted by the UDF government to bring out the truth. "It was my duty as Chief Minister to appear before the Commision. That was a citizen's duty. I did not say I am Chief Minister and did not have time to appear before the Commission.
"I had told the commission that I was prepared to depose without any time limit", Chandy said, adding, the state had not suffered any loss due to the scam. Denying the allegations levelled against him by Saritha, Aryadan Mohammed said "the charges are baseless."
The fradulent company, Team Solar, floated by the two accused—Saritha and Biju Radhakrishnan—had collected huge amounts from various persons promising to provide solar solutions.
Meanwhile, KPCC President V.M. Sudheeran said Saritha's allegations are 'totally unbelievable' and her revelations can only be seen as 'Election Special'. "Elections are round the corner and during elections such allegations will be levelled. The allegations will not have any negative impact on Congress or UDF," he told reporters.