“Callgate” / “Kerala Solar Scam”: Part 2 – The Arrests


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Kerala Legislative Assembly, Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar)
Kerala Legislative Assembly, Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar)

This year the public came to know about the Kerala Solar Scam perpetrated by Saritha Nair and her live-in-scam-partner Biju Radhakishnan who duped many people by falsely promising solar panels and equities in non-existent solar and wind farms.

In early June 2013, one of the investors K.M. Sajjad, an industrialist from Kollam, who had paid an advance of र40 lakh for setting up a solar and windmill farm filed a case against Team Solar. Later, the police said, the letter typed on the letterhead of the Chief Minister with the CM’s signature and shown to Sajad was a forgery. Sajjad said that he got in touch with Team Solar after seeing a Team Solar advertisement in the newspapers and ended up parting with र40 lakh for a solar power plant and windmills in Tamil Nadu.

Many cases for cheating and criminal breach of trust have been registered against the duo. Up to end of July 2013, police stations across the state registered 33 cases against Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan.

As on July 2013, six cases were registered against Team Solar in the city of Kochi – five cases in Town North station and one case in Town South police station. On July 16, 2013, Sarita Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan, were remanded to police custody for four days by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences) Court and directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the six cases. According to SIT, Sarita and Biju had been operating out of their office on Chittoor Road from 2010 onwards under the names of West Wind Corporates and Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions.

Reginald George filed a case in the Town North Police station that said he was cheated of र95.86 lakh by Team Solar for a part of a windmill project in Idukki.

The Town North Police has also registered a case against Abhilash Nair and Santhosh of Team Solar, on the basis of a complaint lodged by V.P. Joy of Muvattupuzha for allegedly cheating him of र1.60 lakh as he was promised a part of a windmill project in Idukki.

A jewellery showroom at Padivattom which has shops around the world, accused Team Solar of cheating them of र23.5 lakh on the pretext of setting up solar panels at
their showroom.

In the Malabar region several medical practitioners fell into their trap. About 11 petitions were filed against Biju Radhakishnan in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Ernakulam, of which, ten petitioners were doctors.

On September 10, 2013, confident of his protectors in the government, Salim Raj, former bodyguard of  Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, attempted to abduct a couple in broad daylight on a highway. Seeing the commotion, a lot of local people gathered around them. Though Salim Raj threatened them by flashing his police ID card, the angry locals did not give in and refused to let him and his goons leave until the police came and took them into custody.

Saritha Nair was arrested on June 3, 2013. (Express photo)
Saritha Nair was arrested on June 3, 2013. (Photo: Deshabhimani)

On June 5, 2013, Sarita Nair was arrested by the Perumbavoor police from a house in Edappazhanji, Thiruvananthapuram, where she was hiding. Sarita told the police that she had no contact for the past one year with the  absconding Biju Radhakishnan.

Biju Radhakishnan was arrested in Coimbatore June 17, 2013, for the murder of his wife Reshmi. (Express file photo)
Biju Radhakishnan was arrested in Coimbatore June 17, 2013, for the murder of his wife Reshmi. (Express file photo)

On June 17, 2013, Biju Radhakishnan was arrested in Coimbatore for the murder of his wife Reshmi on February 4, 2006 at his Kottarakkara house. Biju told the police that he was advised by a lawyer in Ernakulam to leave the state and stay underground until he fetched an anticipatory bail for him in the solar panel scam. He said it was the same lawyer who also advised him to speak to the news channels and reveal the role played by Chief Minister’s staff. However, the  lawyer cheated him he said.

When the police nabbed Biju in Coimbatore he had only र20 in his purse. One of the policemen said:

The conman who duped several to the tune of crores of rupees did not even have money to pay his taxi bill. He had told the driver that he would pay him after selling his laptop.”

On October 9, 2013, Biju Radhakrishnan told the Judicial First Class Magistrate court in Thiruvananthapuram that he was ready to reveal the names of the top political leaders involved in the scam.

Kerala reeled under the scam. The media dubbed the scam “Callgate” and “Kerala Solar Scam“. The duo had used cine starlets for sex and blackmail.

The scandal created havoc in the ruling Congress party. The amounts involved in each case varied from a few lakhs to a few crores with the total, calculated by complaints, amounted to less than र10 crore (US$1.6 million) – a meagre amount when compared to other scams perpetrated by others in India. However, the aggressive protests by Leftist political parties made the scam notorious.

Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister of Kerala.
Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister of Kerala.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s “Mr. Clean” image was muddied, and brought his government to its knees. The Opposition parties demanded his resignation.

Salim Raj, Tenny Joppan and Jikumon Jacob were members of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s personal staff and his closest confidants for eight years and had links
with Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakishnan, the accused in the multi-crore solar scam. However, only Tenny Joppan was arrested.

Media reports said that Salim Raj, the former bodyguard of the Chief Minister, had made a number of calls to the accused in the Solar scam. However, the Special Investigation Team which probes the solar scam exonerated him.

Salim Raj outside a court in Kozhikode (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)
Salim Raj outside a court in Kozhikode (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

On September 10, 2013, confident of his protectors in the government, Salim Raj attempted to abduct a couple in broad daylight on a highway. Seeing the commotion, a lot of local people gathered around them. Though Salim Raj threatened them by flashing his police ID card, the angry locals did not give in and refused to let Salim Raj and his goons leave until the police came and took them into custody.

Jikkumon Jacob,  a personal staff of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy.
Jikkumon Jacob, a personal staff of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy.

Jikkumon Jacob, assistant PA to CM’s personal assistant P. Sivadasan and member of chief minister’s personal staff, resigned on his own from the post following allegations of his involvement with Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakishna, the main accused in the solar panel case. The special investigation team led by ADGP quizzed Jikkumon since his mobile number appears in the call lists of those who had Telephoned Saritha Nair.

However, no action was taken against Jikkumon.

Tenny Joppan, a long-time aide and former personal staff member of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was arrested on June28, 2013.
Tenny Joppan, a long-time aide and former personal staff member of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was arrested on June28, 2013.

On June 28, 2013, Tenny Joppan, a long-time aide and former personal staff member of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was removed from the CM’s office following the controversies. He was arrested after a three-hours interrogation at Chengannur DYSP office, when the CM had gone to Bahrain to receive a UN award for his mass contact programmes.  He was charged under Section 420 of IPC (cheating) and Sec 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance) and listed as the third accused in the Solar scam case, along with Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan.

M.G. Joppan, father of Tenny said the real culprits in the case are outside the bars. He said:

Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan’s police came to arrest Tenny when Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was out of station. Tenny was made a scapegoat. There has been a conspiracy behind this. Many people including Salim Raj and Jikku are safe outside. Tenny hasn’t earned anything illegally.”

On August 23, 2013, Kerala High Court granted bail to Joppen.

A. Firoze, former director of Kerala's Information and Public Relations department.
A. Firoze, former director of Kerala’s Information and Public Relations department.

On July 18, 2013, A. Firoze, suspended Director of the  Information and Public Relations Department, surrendered at the Medical College Police station after the Kerala High Court rejected his plea for anticipatory bail. He was accused of defrauding a Thiruvananthapuram builder of र40 lakh promising to arrange an Asian Development Bank loan for setting up a solar facility. Firoze had reportedly introduced Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha Nair to the builder saying one of them was a offical of ADB.

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← Previous:  Part 1 – Team Solar

Next → Part 3 – Murder, Movie Stars, Intrigue, and the Movie

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