The Kerala High Court stayed the CBI probe on the corruption charges in the LIFE Mission Project for two months on Tuesday.
The decision comes after a plea against the CBI from Santosh Eapen, owner of construction firm Unitac.
Justice V.G. Arun had heard the arguments of both sides last week.
The CBI had argued that the deal violated the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act and that government officials and the accused in the Trivandrum Airport gold smuggling case had indulged in massive embezzlement under the cover of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed for the project.
The aim of the Livelihood Inclusion and Financial Empowerment (LIFE) Mission of the state government is to provide housing for the poor and the landless. The mission had entered into an MoU with the Red Crescent Authority for Rs 20 crore assistance for the project in Wadakkanchery—Rs 14.5 crore for a housing complex and Rs 5.5 crore for a hospital attached to the complex. Red Crescent then signed a contract with Unitac for construction of the apartments.
The CBI’s allegation is that FCRA was violated in receiving the funding from the UAE-based organisation.
The Kerala government has, however, said it had no role in the dealings and contract between Red Crescent and Unitac. It said that the state’s Vigilance Department is already investigating the allegations concerning the deal. Moreover, the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act do not apply in the case, it said.
Meanwhile, Michael Varghese, a native of Alappuzha, has approached the High Court, alleging that the petition led by the chief minister and others through the government advocate seeking quashing of the CBI FIR in the case is unconstitutional.
Verdict on bail pleas
An NIA court will give its verdict on the bail petitions of the accused in the gold smuggling case on Wednesday. Before that, the court will examine in detail the confessional statements of the fourth accused Sandeep Nair.
Ten accused have applied for bail. The bail application of Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the case, will be considered on Thursday.
Cyber-forensic results of Swapna’s phones
Crucial digital evidence in the gold smuggling case will be made available on Tuesday.
The Customs Department will receive the results of the cyber forensic examination done on four mobile phones that were rarely used by Swapna Suresh. Six mobile phones were recovered from Swapna in all. The cyber-forensic results of two of the phones that she used regularly were made available earlier. However, they did not contain any evidence to show that she had called suspended bureaucrat M. Sivasankar and K.T. Ramees, considered to be the mastermind of the gold smuggling racket and an accused in the case.
Despite circumstantial evidence, Sivasankar has not been charged in the case due to lack of scientific evidence of his involvement with the accused, including Swapna. The results to be provided on Tuesday will be crucial in determining if he had any role in the smuggling racket.
(This story was originally published in onmanorama)