Former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy has received a clean chit from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the sexual exploitation allegation levelled by Saritha Nair, who is the prime accused in the sensational solar scam that had rocked the southern state when his government was in power nearly a decade ago.
The CBI submitted the referral report in the court on Tuesday, sources said.
In July 2013, Nair had sent a letter to the police commissioner accusing several United Democratic Front (UDF) leaders including former Kerala CM Chandy, INC leader (currently in BJP) A P Abdullakutty, KC Venugopal of sexual exploitation and corruption.
We look at what the solar case was and how the sexual allegations came to light.
What was the solar case?
In 2013, business partners and couple Sritha S Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan were arrested following corruption charges of their Kochi-based firm, Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions Pvt Limited. According to media reports, the couple would allegedly collect investments from businessmen and NRIs, promising to make them partners in windmill projects and solar fields.
The couple would also drop in names of top-tier politicians including Chandy to make the offer look more appealing and often produce forged letterheads of the CM’s office to convince the investors.
Further investigation into the case revealed that Nair was in contact with some 30-odd Congress-led UDF government and late-night calls would be exchanged between them.
Nair’s call records revealed that she had been in touch with Chandy’s staff members – personal assistant Tenni Joppen, additional personal assistant Jikkumon Jacob and Chandy’s security guard Salim Raj.
Tracing back these calls showed that they were made to the landline in the CM’s office and to Joppen’s cell phone, which the chief minister was known to often use himself.
The matter came to light in 2013, when Sajad A, a Gulf-returned businessman, was duped of Rs 40 lakhs after the couple promised to make him an owner of three mills. Sajad’s complaint led to the arrest of Nair and her husband, following which 33 cases were registered against them.
Sexual allegations levelled by Nair
While serving the jail term, the couple alleged that they have been made scapegoats by the former UDF government.
In the letter written in 2013, Nair named several VVIPs, accusing them of demanding sexual favours in lieu of business contracts of the solar firm.
In 2015, Nair’s husband claimed to have visuals of Chandy and five other ministers having physical relation with her. However, the evidence was never recovered.
Following the letter, which came to light in 2016, the police registered rape cases against Chandy and AICC general secretary K C Venugopal, among others in 2018.
According to media reports, Nair also confessed to having paid a bribe of Rs 1.90 crore to Chandy in 2012.
Sources said to PTI that the CBI probe has found that there was no basis for the woman's allegation against Chandy as there was no evidence to prove that she had gone to the official residence of the then Chief Minister on that particular day.
“My public life has always been an open book before the people. I have done nothing against my conscience. I have not tried to hide anything from people,” Chandy said in a statement here reacting to the clean chit given to him by the CBI.
Last year, the CBI had taken over the investigation into cases against Chandy, former Union minister K C Venugopal and other politicians related to allegations of sexual exploitation by the accused woman.
The cases against the six persons, including Chandy, were registered over the last few years and investigated by the Crime Branch of the Kerala Police based on a complaint by the woman, an accused in the multi-crore solar panel scam during the UDF government, that she was sexually exploited by them in 2012.
The CPI(M)-led Kerala government had recommended a CBI inquiry into the cases in early 2021.
The opposition Congress had dubbed the move as "politically motivated", saying the LDF government could not find anything against the party leaders and took the decision as elections were around the corner.
Sources said that the CBI probe has found that there was no basis for the woman's allegation against Chandy as there was no evidence to prove that she had gone to the official residence of then Chief Minister on that particular day.
The CBI has also found that it was a fabricated case, the sources further said.
(with PTI inputs)