KIIFB decisions taken by its board, not by chairman or vice-chairman: Kerala ex-minister Thomas Isaac

Isaac said he was willing to appear before the agency and give an explanation if the ED could point out what law had been violated.


Published Jan 24, 2024 | 8:40 AMUpdatedJan 24, 2024 | 9:03 AM

Former Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac. (South First)

In response to summons from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) probing the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) “masala bond” case, senior CPI(M) leader Thomas Isaac has addressed questions regarding his role as its vice-chairman during his tenure as state finance minister in the previous Left government.

Isaac clarified that neither the chief minister nor the finance minister, who held the ex-officio positions of chairman and vice-chairman, possessed special powers under the KIIFB Act.

Isaac said that decisions made by KIIFB were in accordance with the resolutions passed by its board, highlighting the collective decision-making process within the organisation.

The 71-year-old politician said this information was conveyed to the ED, which had sought his presence to provide oral evidence regarding the issuance of masala bonds by the board and the utilisation of the proceeds.

The ED had issued summons to Isaac to appear at their Kochi office on 22 January in connection with a Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) case.

Related: ED tarnishing KIIFB credibility: 5 Kerala legislators approach Kerala High Court

Thomas Isaac clarifies

The clarification by the senior CPI(M) leader sheds light on the organisational structure and decision-making dynamics within KIIFB, as he navigates through legal proceedings related to the financial activities of the board.

The FEMA case is linked to a probe into the alleged violations in the financial dealings of KIIFB during Isaac’s tenure as the finance minister in the previous LDF government.

Isaac, in a Facebook post, said that certain portions of his reply were clubbed together by some media with a malafide intention to “create news” that the decision to issue the masala bond was taken by the board chaired by the chief minister.

He said that such news items will not deter him from fighting ED’s “politically motivated” moves.

Isaac, earlier in the day on Tuesday, 23 January, told media that he would not be appearing before the agency and termed the summons as “pure harassment”.

He said he has asked the ED to withdraw the summons issued to him last week. Isaac had not appeared before the ED on 22 January as sought by the agency. He was earlier asked to appear before it on 12 January, but he had not turned up then also.

Also Read: Kerala Opposition rejects CM’s call for united protest against Union govt

‘What law has been violated?’

Isaac on Tuesday said that he was willing to appear before the agency and give an explanation if the ED can point out what law has been violated.

“But, I am not going to appear before them so that they can question me and find out if any laws were violated. That amounts to self-incrimination and I will not do that,” he said.

Moreover, the KIIFB has already submitted all accounts and records to the ED, he added. Therefore, its chairman or vice-chairman need not give any accounts or explanation.

Isaac said that even the Kerala High Court had made it clear that there cannot be a “roving expedition”.

“So, this summons is pure harassment. To protect my dignity, I will go to court if required,” the former state minister said.

Asked whether he was apprehensive about arrest if he appeared before the agency, Isaac said that it was a case under the FEMA and not of money laundering.

They cannot arrest for a case under the FEMA, he claimed, adding that the ED cannot even in their dreams contend that it was a case of money laundering.

Also Read: ED attaches assets of expelled CPI leader in co-op bank fraud case

‘Politically-motivated probe’

Isaac termed it as a “politically motivated move” in view of the approaching Lok Sabha elections.

“As elections are nearing, they are scared and so they are making use of agencies like the ED,” he said.

This was happening across India and only the Congress in Kerala was failing to see that.

The KIIFB is the primary agency of the state government for financing large and critical infrastructure projects and had raised ₹2,150 crore in 2019 through its debut masala bond issue as part of its plan to mobilise ₹50,000 crore to fund large and critical infrastructure projects in the southern state.

The ED suspects contravention of the FEMA here and hence initiated a probe.

In December last year, the ED had informed the Kerala High Court that it had withdrawn the summons issued to Isaac as part of the agency’s probe into the alleged violations in the financial dealings of KIIFB during his tenure as the state finance minister.

The submissions were made during the hearing of a plea by Isaac and a KIIFB official alleging that only personal information was sought through the summons by the ED and seeking quashing of the same.

In view of the agency withdrawing the summons, the court had disposed of the petitions.

At the same time, it had also said that the ED was free to continue with its investigation in the matter.

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