Bar bribe controversy: Congress ministers also took money: Biju Ramesh
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At the end of a day that saw
backtracking and twists in the Kerala bar bribe controversy, whistleblower Biju
Ramesh revealed that apart from Finance Minister KM Mani, there are other
Congress ministers who took money from hoteliers.
Making the revelation in Manorama News, Ramesh, the
Working President of Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association, said that he will
disclose all the names soon. Ramesh, who earlier in the day gave the statement
to the Vigilance team probing the allegations, also said that he gave primary
evidence to the officials.
“The amount of Rs 1 crore was handed over to KM Mani
in three instalments, with the last payment happening on April 2 of this year.
The sum was given to the minister at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram,” he
“I have given the Vigilance team strong evidence,
including information on where the meeting with Mani took place and when. I am
not sure whether the minister took the money as bribe or fund to the party,”
The statement of Ramesh came as a surprise after he
softened his stance in the issue earlier in the day, suggesting that the row
would end soon.
Emerging after a four-hour meeting with the Vigilance
team, Ramesh had said that he gave a statement to the Vigilance team saying
that he does not have clear information about the incident. Ramesh had also
said then that he gave no footage or audio clips to the probe team.
On the other hand, Vigilance team members said that
they were told by Ramesh that the money was handed over to Mani during the Lok
Sabha elections. It was the office-bearers of bar owners association that gave
the money, Ramesh reportedly told the probe team.
Soon after Ramesh gave the statement to Vigilance, the
owner of a bar in Alappuzha’s Aroor, who had made bribery charges against Mani,
retracted his statement.
Manoharan, the Aroor bar owner, has now changed his
stand saying that he never went to the Finance Minister's house in Pala, adding
he has given this statement to the Vigilance team probing this issue.
“I was under the influence of alcohol when I said that
I went to minister KM Mani’s residence. I have never met him in my life. In
fact, it was a friend of mine who told me about the bar bribe issue and it
turned out that he himself does not know much about it,” Manoharan added.
"I have disclosed everything in detail and this
was no questioning at all. They took down everything and it's just the same
that I have disclosed to the media," Ramesh told reporters after giving
statement to the Vigilance team.
Participating in a live TV news programme last Friday,
Ramesh had said that Mani was given Rs 1 crore to ensure that 418 bars in the
state are allowed to reopen.