Kerala Finance Minister KM Mani booked for allegedly seeking bribe from bar owners

Kerala's Finance Minister KM Mani

Thiruvananthapuram: An FIR has been registered against Kerala Finance Minister KM Mani on Thursday by the state’s Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) in connection with the bar bribe case.

According to reports, the state’s Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau lodged the report after finding prima facie evidence against the minister, who is Kerala Congress(M) supremo.

The case against Mani was registered on the basis of statements given by some of those questioned by investigators as part of a preliminary inquiry into the allegation that he had taken a hefty sum as bribe from bar owners for decisions favourable to them, VACB sources said.

About two months back, Biju Ramesh, working president of Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association, had levelled allegation against the minister.

Mani has reportedly been accused of demanding bribe to allow the reopening of 418 bars shut down in the state in the wake of change in liquor policy.

Whistleblower bar owner Biju Ramesh has alleged that Rs 1 crore was given to Mani as the first instalment of the Rs 5 crore he had demanded.

A special investigation team would reportedly be formed by the VACB for a detailed investigation in the case.

The LDF leaders have demanded resignation of Mani, who is away in New Delhi to attend a meeting of state Finance Ministers convened by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Last week, the Kerala High court had rejected a plea for registration of an FIR against Mani.

A division bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice A M Shaffique, while disposing of petitions by LDF convenor Vaikom Vishwam and CPI MLA VS Sunil Kumar, had directed Vigilance Director to take independent decision in accordance with statutory provisions within one week of receipt of the preliminary report.

The Left parties have been demanding Mani’s resignation, saying Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet were shielding the minister.

(With Agency Inputs)

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