Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday accused the Enforcement Directorate of trying to threaten officials of the state’s Infrastructure Investment Fund Board, and said that his government will take legal action against the central agency, PTI reported. Vijayan is the chairperson of the board.
The Enforcement Directorate had on Tuesday summoned top officials of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board in a case related to the alleged violation of the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act.
A case has also been registered against KIIFB Chief Executive Officer KM Abraham and Deputy Managing Director Vikramjit Singh. They have refused to appear before the ED, The Hindu reported.
Vijayan alleged that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was misusing the Enforcement Directorate for political purposes. “Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who is also a senior leader of the BJP, is raising baseless allegations against KIIFB which ushers in unprecedented development in the state”, Vijayan said, while referring to comments made by her at an election rally. “She began her effort to destroy it the [Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board] by misusing the Enforcement Directorate under her ministry.”
The Kerala chief minister accused the Enforcement Directorate of trying to force state officials to give statements according to the demands of the “political big bosses at the Centre”. “The investigators had taken a stand that they would not even mind physically assaulting the state officials,” Vijayan was quoted as saying by PTI. “But the central agencies should keep in mind that there are laws in this country to resist such unwarranted moves. Rule of law still persists in this land.”
Vijayan alleged that women officials of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board were mistreated by the Enforcement Directorate. “It was not right to take a stand that central officials were above all others,” he added. “They have the responsibility to behave properly to the state officials, who are being summoned by them.”
The Kerala chief minister said that any unlawful step will be resisted legally, according to PTI. “Naturally, it would invite legal action,” he said. “Everyone has the right to lodge a complaint. Naturally, the authorities concerned would take action in this regard. The central agencies cannot act according to their whims and fancies.”
Vijayan had on Wednesday written to the Election Commission of India, and held Sitharaman responsible for the developments in the case. He said that the Model Code of Conduct in the election-bound state was being “torpedoed” by some Union ministers.
The Kerala chief minister alleged that the news of the central agency summoning Kerala government officials was being “misused” to spread propaganda ahead of the next month’s Assembly elections.
Unidentified ED officials have said their investigation has revealed that the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board earned over Rs 2,100 crore by issuing “Masala bonds” for projects, but the money was used by cultural, forestry, fisheries and tourism departments. These bonds are specialised debt instruments issued outside India but denominated in Indian rupees, rather than the local currency.
They said the preliminary investigation showed that the bonds were issued without the permission of the Centre, which is in violation of rules, as foreign debt cannot be raised without the Union government’s approval.