CBI Headquarters. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, March 1 : The CBI has informed the Supreme Court that the Kerala government used proxy firms like Unitac and Sane Ventures to receive funds directly from a foreign agency, violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

The investigating agency had filed the affidavit in connection with the Kerala Life Mission Project scam.

In its affidavit, the CBI said the receipt of contribution from a foreign source is not in the ordinary course of business of any of the accused and the receipt of kickbacks cannot be considered as genuine transaction.

"Unitac and Sane Ventures received contribution from foreign source for and on behalf of Life Mission and the said the money received was used to pay kickbacks and costly gifts to government servants and employees of Life Mission. Thus, it is denied that no offence under FCRA is made out," said the affidavit.

The apex court had sought CBI's response in the matter on January 25, 2021.

The CBI told the top court that the FIR and complaint are based on strong footing and grounds and properly constructed, not liable to be quashed. "Payment of kickbacks to the tune of Rs 3.8 crore and 7 i-Phones from the foreign contribution to persons covered under Section 3 of the FCRA is also an offence under FCRA," said the CBI.

The Life Mission housing project was one of the most important projects of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for building homes for the homeless. According to the CBI, the MoU finds no mention of Unitac or Sane Ventures as the contractor who would execute the work or any other firm to whom the contract will be awarded.

The affidavit said that evidence shows Santhosh Eapen, Managing Partner, Unitac Builders, conspired with unknown officials of LIFE Mission, Kerala government, and entered into two contractual agreements with the Consul General of the UAE for building of apartments and a healthcare unit/hospital at Wadakkanchery in Thrissur district.

On the basis of the proposals put forward by Life Mission, funds to a tune of AED 10 million were transferred by Red Crescent through the UAE consulate to Unitac Builders. Unitac Builders was allowed by Life Mission to construct 140 dwelling units which were not as per the drawings submitted by empanelled consultant Habitat with the Wadakkanchery municipality, or as per the building permit approved by the competent authority.

The CBI said the evidence reveals that Unitac is a proxy firm of Life Mission used for receiving foreign contribution from the UAE on behalf of the Life Mission project.

"By receiving funds in the said manner, CAG audit, government formalities and the rigours of FCRA were avoided so that kickbacks could be received," said the affidavit.

The CBI said that Sane Ventures, a firm owned by Eapen, was allowed to construct a health centre at Wadakkancherry. "Investigation revealed that no DPR with regard to the health centre was submitted by the company to Life Mission. This firm, Sane Ventures, had never entered into a contract agreement with either the signatory of the MoU, which reveals that it is also a proxy firm for receiving foreign contributions," added the affidavit.

The CBI has claimed that Unitac and Sane ventures received contribution from foreign source for and on behalf of Life Mission, which they were not authorised to.

"The usual method of signing an agreement in the name of the Governor is deliberately avoided to facilitate the receipt of kickbacks and to avoid the government machinery. The violation of Article 299 of the Constitution further establishes the foul play and conspiracy in the present case," added the CBI.

The CBI filed the affidavit on an appeal filed by the Kerala government challenging the Centre's CBI probe order into the Life Mission housing project scam.

Declining to quash the FIR, the high court had observed that the facts reveal "a high-profile intellectual fraud played" to avoid an audit by the CAG and get kickbacks and gratifications.

(Sumit saxena can be contacted at sumit.s@ians.in )

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