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Leak in bar bribery scam probe triggers row

Leak in bar bribery scam probe triggers row

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani, facing corruption charges in the bar licence scam, Monday expressed displeasure over the alleged leak of a Vigilance probe report in the case, prompting the government to say that strict action will be taken against those behind this act.

Mani, a veteran politician and chief of Kerala Congress (M), the third largest partner in the Congress-led ruling UDF, was reacting to media reports that polygraph test conducted on Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association Working President Biju Ramesh's car driver, who deposed before the Vigilance against Mani, was positive.

Driver Amabili, a key witness in the case, had reportedly told the Vigilance probe team that he drove the car to Mani's residence with some association people and saw them allegedly handing over bribe money to the Minister.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of Kottayam leg of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's Mass Contact Programme, Mani said media was 'concocting' stories based on the report.

The home department should examine how this was happening, Mani said, adding 'all facts will come out once the probe is over'.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said leak of vigilance probe report would be examined.

"It is happening without the knowledge of home department," he said.

The government would also examine complaints,if any, of KC(M), he said and assured strict action against persons responsible for leaking the report.

Seizing on the issue, CPI-M State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan asked the Chief Minister to oust Mani from the Ministry in the wake of new developments in the case.

He said if the Chief Minister was not ready to act, the Governor should intervene in the matter.

Balakrishnan also demanded an FIR against Congress leader and State Excise Minister K Babu, against whom also charges of bribery have been levelled by Biju Ramesh.

He alleged that attempt was on to protect Babu in the scam and 'this will not be tolerated'.

Stating that LDF would intensify its stir over the bar scam, he said the front's meeting on May 31 would work out details of the agitation.

In a related development in the case, four bar owners have decided not to undergo a lie-detector test in connection with the case.

Bar owners and office-bearers of the Kerala Bar Hotels Association took the decision after they received legal opinion on the matter.

The Vigilance Court hearing the case had directed the bar owners to inform the court whether they were willing to undergo polygraph test in the case.

The alleged scam surfaced in November last after Biju Ramesh alleged that the association had paid Rs.One crore to the Finance Minister. Later, he also alleged a bribe of Rs 10 crore was paid to the Excise Minister.

Yesterday, Biju Ramesh came out with further allegation that bribe has been paid to certain ruling front MLAs in the last four years.

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