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“Callgate” / “Kerala Solar Scam”: Part 4 – Scammers and Politicians


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Many victims of the Solar scam did not dare to lodge complaints against the duo because most of them were laundering black money. Also, the victims were aware that the duo was being protected by some wielding power.

Though their business flourished, Saritha Nair’s relationship with Biju Radhkarishnan soured. Both suspected each other of having other affairs. In 2012, the couple decided to end their relationship and part ways.

In early June 2013, K.M. Sajjad, an industrialist from Kollam, filed a case against Team Solar. He had been cheated after having paid an advance of र40 lakh for setting up a solar and windmill farm.

On June 5, 2013, Perumbavoor police traced absconding Sarita Nair to a house at Edappazhanji, Thiruvananthapuram and arrested her for cheating.

Biju Radhakrishnan arrested (Source:  deccanchronicle.com)
Biju Radhakrishnan arrested (Source: deccanchronicle.com)

Deputy Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch (CID), C.G. Suresh Kumar investigated the Reshmi murder case. On June 17, 2013, police arrested Biju from Coimbatore for the murder of Reshmi. It is indeed a mystery how Biju contrived to escape from the police for more than seven years.

According to the charge sheet, the alleged murder was committed on the night of February 3, 2006. Biju after forcing Reshmi to drink liquor laced with poison dragged her to the toilet. His elder son born to Reshmi was an eyewitness to this act.

Case has been registered against Biju for murder, harassment of women, destroying of evidence and man handling of his elder son.

Biju’s mother Rajammal was also arrested and charged for harassment of women and helping her son to destroy evidence. She was let out on bail.

On the same day of Biju’s arrest, (June 17, 2013), the media reported that Yogi Nirmalanandagiri of Charamoodu in Alappuzha, made allegations against Sarita Nair and Biju Radhakishnan saying that they had extorted about र25 lakh from several people offering a gamut of promises.

In 2007, Biju had introduced himself to the yogi as a consultant and had told him that they could have obtained government welfare funds for the ashram if it had been registered as a trust. Biju had added that he would need र1.5 lakh to meet ministers in the capital for the release of funds to the ashram.

Next, the duo set up a centre named ‘Saffron Consultants and Event Management’ and distributed leaflets detailing their services.

On February 15, 2007, the ashram was registered as a trust.

The couple then took yogi Nirmalanandagiri to Thiruvananthapuram to invite Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the Home minister, to attend the inaugural function of the trust. But they did not succeed in meeting the minister.

Biju stayed a day at the ashram. Later he and Saritha checked into a hotel at Kayamkulam. Biju conducted All India Trade Fairs in various places between Kayamkulam and Adoor. He would invariably disappear from the venue before the fair concluded. He would not even pay the hotel bill, the yogi said.

Yogi Nirmalanandagiri said he registered a complaint with the Kayamkulam and Chengannur DySPs. But, the police just ignored his plaint and did not investigate. Meanwhile, both the DySPs said there had been no complaints against Biju in 2007. “We would have taken up the case had there been any complaints in this regard”, they said.

Who is lying?

Scammers and Politicians

Jacob Mathews, the advocate of Biju Radhakrishnan.
Jacob Mathews, the advocate of Biju Radhakrishnan.

The sordid sex angle to the scandal was confirmed on November 22, 2013. The media reported that Jacob Mathew, the advocate of Biju Radhakrishnan had said that he has videos of 12 VIPs – politicians, ministers, IAS and IPS officers – sexually abusing Saritha Nair. The advocate asserted that he had many copies of the videos that Saritha herself had recorded using a pen camera, and the footage taken over from her by Biju Radhakrishnan. The advocate threatened to give the visuals of sexual abuse of Saritha Nair to the investigating officer in front of media as soon as he received a written permission from Biju Radhakrishnan, locked up in jail.

This irked many prominent leaders in Kerala. Jacob Mathew named union minister K.C. Venugopal, Kerala tourism minister A.P. Anilkumar, former minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar and Crime branch IG M.R. Ajithkumar.

Union minister of state for Civil Aviation and Energy K.C. Venugopal challenged the advocate’s statement and termed it as a conspiracy against him. He asked the advocate to release the tapes at the earliest. Though he claims he never helped Saritha Nair, records of late calls from Saritha to him have surfaced.

A.P. Anil Kumar has clarified that last year Saritha Nair had called him to invite him to inaugurate two of her offices at Kozhikhode and Malappuram.

Earlier, on April 1, 2013, the media reported that K.B. Ganesh Kumar, Kerala Minister for Forest, Sports and Cinema filed a divorce petition at the family court in Thiruvananthapuram. He alleged that his wife, accusing him of having illicit affairs with other women, physically assaulted him. Later, Biju claimed he had met the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy once for an hour-long discussion on Ganesh Kumar’s affair with Saritha Nair. However, the CM is still to reveal the details of the discussion that took place, but had said that Biju was referred to him by M.I. Shanavas, the Congress MP.

Crime branch IG M.R. Ajith Kumar told media that he will file a defamation suit against Jacob Mathew.

Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan issued a challenge to those having the videos to release them and not issue unfounded threats.

Names of UDF ministers such as: Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, Aryadan Mohammed, KC Joseph, Shibhu Baby John, Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, his private secretary V.K. Raveendran, and MLA Mons Joseph are some of the other names that have surfaced in Saritha’s call records. Some of the ministers have admitted that they have been in touch with her.

V.S. Achuthanandan, former Chief Minister of Kerala (Source: deccanchronicle.com)
V.S. Achuthanandan, former Chief Minister of Kerala (Source: deccanchronicle.com)

In Kerala, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) is also feeling the heat of the Solar Scam. Out of the many cases registered against Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan, 14 cases for cheating, involving र1.72 crore were registered from May 30, 2009 to April 16, 2011 when CPI(M)’s V.S. Achuthanandan was Chief Minister. Allegedly, Saritha’s clout in power circles was such that she even addressed one of the LDF ministers as ‘Uncle’ – who the ruling party alleges is none other than the then Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

N.V. Raju, the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences) had given a statement to High court vigilance registrar S. Mohan Das that Saritha Nair told him when interrogated on July 20, 2013 that she was sexually abused by many people.

On November 12, 2013, Vigilance Registrar S. Mohan Das, in his report submitted to the Kerala high court, flayed ACJM for having failed to record Saritha’s statement on July 20th itself and has recommended action against the ACJM.

Reshmi Murder Case

Saritha Nair brought to court (Source: deccanchronicle.com)
Saritha Nair brought to court (Source: deccanchronicle.com)

Saritha Nair, the prime accused in the solar scam, when produced in the court during the Reshmi murder case, identified Biju Radhakrishnan.

On November 25, 2013, when produced before the Principal Sessions and District Court, Kollam, Saritha Nair wept and told that Biju blackmailed her with nude photos of her, and he also had nude photos of the murderred Reshmi.

Saritha said that while she and Biju were living together in Thiruvananthapuram, Biju had said that he had given “quotation” to kill Resmi.

When she asked Biju to register their marriage, he threatened her saying that it would take only “two minutes” to kill her. Biju had crushed her hands between doors, and landed blows on the back of her head. She wondered whether Reshmi might have been murdered in a similar way. She added that Biju had planned to kill her in a contrived car accident after he became intimate with the TV actress Shalu Menon.

Biju’s advocate while cross-examining Saritha asked her whether the stories she told were “mere speculation”. Saritha replied that they were what she personally experienced in her life.

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“Callgate” / “Kerala Solar Scam”: Part 3 – Murder, Movie Stars, Intrigue, and the Movie.


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Reshmi Pillai (Source: mathrubhumi.com)
Reshmi Pillai (Source: mathrubhumi.com)

Reshmi was the youngest of the three daughters of LIC agent Parameshwaran Pillai and Saradamaniamma from Kollam. About 13 years ago, Reshmi, a B.Ed. student was staying at Biju Radhakrishnan’s house as a paying guest.

Biju Radhakrishnan, a hardcore criminal, loved money and women and wanted to become a billionaire. Biju, believing that he could become rich by marrying Reshmi, enticed her, and Reshmi succumbed to his charming ways.

In 2001, they eloped, but did not get legally married. Their relation soured when Reshmi realized Biju’s follies and Biju came to know that she was not as wealthy as he had believed. However, after some period she returned and started living with Biju.

Saritha S. Nair (Source: newindianexpress.com)
Saritha S. Nair (Source: newindianexpress.com)

Saritha S. Nair was born into a lower-middle-class family in Chengannur. At the age of 18, she married a Dubai-based NRI. After obtaining her B.Com degree, Saritha got a job at a private bank in Kozhencherry, where she cheated her employer of र2 lakh. Next, she joined a private firm where she came in contact with the already married Biju Radhakrishnan. They were intimate.

Reshmi opposed Biju’s relationship with Saritha. Very often Biju beat Reshmi and sometimes in front of their son. Not able to bear the blows, Reshmi left him and lived with her parents.

On February 4, 2006, Reshmi was found lying unconscious in the bathroom at Biju’s Kottarakkara house. She had head injuries. Biju assisted by his neighbours took her to a hospital. Biju claimed that she had hurt herself after slipping in the bathroom. Reshmi was declared dead on arrival. Relatives and neighbors were doubtful and did not believe that Reshmi committed suicide as she had two children to take care of.

Biju absconded after Reshmi’s death, and the Kottarakkara police registered five fraud cases against him. For the past seven years, the police and the crime branch were clueless about his whereabouts. Though he had committed huge frauds using fake names and addresses, not a single police person had seen him until the date of his arrest on June 17, 2013.

In 2007, after divorcing her husband, Saritha Nair lived with Biju Radhakrishnan.

The duo started their career in crime first by enticing people by providing loans at very low-interest rates. Next, they targeted businessmen needing large sums of money. Saritha would bait them by promising funds from abroad. Following the modus operandi of email scammers, Saritha would convince the victims that the loan would be sanctioned only after paying a service fee. After collecting around two to three lakh rupees, the duo would fade away.

In 2009, the police arrested the couple for cheating a resident of Kakkanad of र1.lakh after promising to install a windmill plant.

The duo began their career in crime first by enticing people by providing loans at very low-interest rates. Next, they targeted businessmen needing large sums of money. Saritha would bait them by promising funds from abroad. Following the modus operandi of email scammers, Saritha would convince the victims that the loan would be sanctioned only after paying a service fee. After collecting around two to three lakh rupees, the duo would fade away.

In 2009, the police arrested the couple for cheating a resident of Kakkanad of र1.lakh after promising to install a windmill plant.

In 2011, after their release, the couple moved their operation to Kochi, and launched Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions aka The Team Solar Energy Company (Team Solar). They advertised Team Solar as “one of the world’s largest renewable energy groups.”

Needing political clout to exploit gullible people, Saritha cultivated contacts with the personal staff of politicians, including the personal aides of Kerala chief ministers. K C Joseph, present Minister for Rural Development, Planning&Culture of the Government of Kerala, inaugurated Saritha’s Kottayam office.

Starlets, sex, blackmail and murder formed the base of the duo’s Solar scam.

Shalu Menon

Shalu Menon
Shalu Menon

Shalu Menon, 30, a dancer-turned-television Malayalam actress, the granddaughter of a famous Kerala dancer, was the first actress involved in the Solar scam. Shalu’s role in the scam surfaced after an NRI businessman named Razik Ali filed a complaint that Biju Radhkarishnan and Shalu Menon had cheated him of र70 lakh by offering a non-existent franchise and a wind farm in Tamil Nadu.

Shalu Menon, Born into a middle-class family, was a familiar face in the cultural world of Kerala. She runs a chain of dance schools under the banner the Jayakerala School of Performing Arts, that boasts having more than 1,000 students. Acting in Malayalam films and TV serials since 1998, her social circle revolved around the rich, famous and powerful. Her political connections helped her earn a berth in the Kerala Censor Board.

Shalu Menon was arrested on July 5, 2013, as the third accused in the Solar scam.  (Source: newindianexpress.com)
Shalu Menon was arrested on July 5, 2013, as the third accused in the Solar scam. (Source: newindianexpress.com)

She was arrested on July 5, 2013, as the third accused in the Solar scam, and for committing an offence under IPC 212 for harbouring and helping the key
accused Biju Radhkarishnan to flee from the state of Kerala by giving him her car and mobile to use while escaping.

During interrogation by the police, Shalu Menon admitted to the links she had with Saritha Nair and Biju Radhkarishnan, the brains behind the scam. She told the police that Biju Radhkarishnan approached her requesting her to model for his company’s advertisements. Later, she became intimate with him.

Shalu Menon added that Saritha Nair too had approached her to learn dance at her school.

Biju had presented Shalu diamond, gold and silver ornaments, and had conveyed his intentions of marrying her. He had given her money to build a palatial house in Changanasserry, and she had helped Biju by enticing investors and politicians. Many politicians and VVIPs including Union minister Kodikkunnil Suresh and state Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan were embarrassed when videos and photographs littered the media showing them attending the house-warming ceremony of Shalu’s palatial bungalow and enjoying the tender coconuts.

On investigation it was revealed that Shalu was a frequent visitor to Biju’s office in Thiruvananthapuram. The police found documents, including cheques and vouchers signed by Shalu in the office. Biju’s employees told the police that Biju introduced Shalu as an executive director of the firm.

Swiss Solar employee Likhitha filed a case against Shalu Menon and Biju Radhakrishnan for duping her of lakhs of rupees. In February 2013 Biju introduced Shalu as the Executive Director of Swiss Solar Company and promised to appoint Likhitha as the CEO of the company. He offered her a salary of rupees one lakh. But the actual salary that Likhitha received was only र50,000 while Biju swindled her to the tune of र1.19 lakhs on the pretext of office expenses. Actually, Biju used this money to clear the dues of his clients.

The affidavit filed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) at the court said that Shalu Menon is the third accused in the case, and an offence under IPC 212 for harbouring an accused has been charged against her.

Uthara Unni

Uthara Unni (Source: balconybeats.com)
Uthara Unni (Source: balconybeats.com)

In July 2013, the name of another Mollywood film actress, Uthara Unni, surfaced in connection with the Solar Scam. Speaking to a Kerala TV channel, actress Urmila Unni, mother of Uthara, denied reports that her daughter was Team Solar’s brand ambassador, but only had modeled for Team Solar’s advertisements. However, a Facebook page in the name of Uthara Unni had mentioned her as the brand ambassador of Team Solar.

The Ernakulam South Police registered a FIR against Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan following the complaint by a Kochi-based travel agency with regard to a bounced cheque for र1.73 lakh given by the scammers after booking air tickets to Chennai and New Delhi. Uthara Unni was one of the passengers for whom the air tickets were booked.

According to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that carried out by the Investigation said the budding actress is not directly involved in the case. “She travelled with Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha Nair to Chennai only for advertisement photo shoots and is not directly linked with the scam.”

Urmila Unni admitted that her daughter Uthara went to Chennai, where she is studying, on the ticket provided by Team Solar.

The police then wanted to question Uthara about her travel details to Dubai with Biju Radhakrishnan.

Muktha Bhanu

Muktha Elsa George
Muktha Elsa George

In mid July 2013, Mollywood actress Muktha Elsa George, popularly known as Muktha or Bhanu, said that she was cheated by Biju Radhakrishnan of Team Solar. According to her, Biju had approached her and promised to include her in the calendar photo shoot for Team Solar, as a replacement for Uthara Unni, who did not curry favour with his associates. She accepted rupees ten thousand as an advance from Biju Radhakrishnan for this assignment. She also said that Biju had offered a job for her sister in the solar office in Thiruvannathapuram, but was double crossed.

Solar Swapnam, The Movie

The notorious Solar scam scandal that stirred the political stability of Kerala has swayed the Malayalam film industry too. Now, an American Film Company named Dream World Productions has launched production of a movie titled “Solar Swapnam” directed by joy Antony and scripted by Raju George. K. Jayakumar has penned the lyrics for the film and Jayan Ezhuman Thuruthu has composed the music.

Actress Pooja will characterize Saritha S. Nair and bear the name Haritha S. Nair (Source: entertainment.oneindia.in)
Actress Pooja will characterize Saritha S. Nair and bear the name Haritha S. Nair (Source: entertainment.oneindia.in)

It is hoped that the movie Solar Swapnam would narrate the whole solar scam. Kollywood actress Pooja will characterize Saritha S. Nair and bear the name Haritha S. Nair. Kollywood actor Bhuvan will portray Biju Radhakrishnan. Kollywood actors Jananardhanan, Harisree Asokan, Nandhu, Mohan Roy, Sona Nair, P. Sreekumar and Aarthi Puri will act in significant roles in the movie.

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“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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“Callgate” / “Kerala Solar Scam”: Part 1 – Team Solar


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Three year ago when the Kerala State was reeling under a severe power crisis, the Kerala government came up with several schemes for generation of power from solar and wind energy.

Saritha S. Nair (Photo: Indiavision)
Saritha S. Nair (Photo: Indiavision)

Sensing the ambience was just about right for investment in these sectors, Saritha S. Nair and live-in-partner Biju Radhakishnan, now under arrest on charges varying from cheating people of crores of rupees to murder, floated the now defunct company The Team Solar Energy Company (Team Solar). When it was in business, Team Solar advertised itself as “one of the world’s largest renewable energy groups,” and had an impressive clientele. They placed advertisements in the media offering a gamut of services such as setting up solar panels and windmills at cheap rates, obtaining government subsidies, and making it easy for the absorption of generated
power to the state power grid.

Zonal office of Team Solar on Chittoor Road in Kochi (Photo: H. Vibhu)
Zonal office of Team Solar on Chittoor Road in Kochi (Photo: H. Vibhu)

Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakishnan had been charged earlier in various cheating cases and were out on bail. In 2009, Saritha Nair was arrested for cheating a resident of Kakkanad of र1.60 lakh after promising to install a windmill plant. This was besides other cases that had been registered against them elsewhere

Interestingly, even though the duo was out on bail, Saritha got in touch with senior police officials over the phone for new assignments. In 2012, Team Solar was assigned to set up solar power equipment at the top-level offices of the City Police – office of the City Police Commissioner, senior police officials, the Police Club – and at the offices of ministers.

Team Solar provided guided tours for prospective entrepreneurs and took them to government lands at various places claiming that they were the spots where their solar or wind energy units would be set up. They even showed some people windmills in Tamil Nadu which they claimed as Team Solar projects.

The investors were asked to sign Memorandum of understanding (MOU), part with their money, and then sit back and enjoy the returns of their investment. Team Solar also inveigled investors by offering to make them business partners.

An undisclosed source inside Team Solar said that even though Team Solar had its hands full of orders, only those of celebrity clients were taken up.

Team Solar assuaged any doubting Thomas by using the stock phrase:

“If you are not convinced, here is the CM’s PA Tenny Joppan on the line, please speak to him.”

If Joppan was unavailable, they would call the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s security officer Salim Raj, or Jikkumon Jacob, a member of chief minister’s personal staff. The fact that the Chief Minister of Kerala did not own a mobile phone went in favour of the scammers because anyone who wanted to contact the Chief Minister, including MLAs, had to call his personal aides who in turn put them through to him. Later on, the media revealed that Saritha Nair made hundreds of calls every week from her cell phones to these gentlemen in office, and received many calls from the Chief Minister’s landline.

Salim Raj, former Security Officer of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy
Salim Raj, former Security Officer of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy

Salim Raj, 42, was an ordinary constable in the Kerala Police and a former bodyguard of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. Salim wielded so much power that on October 1, 2013, Justice Harul-ul-Rashid of Kerala High Court, while hearing petitions seeking a CBI inquiry into a land grab case against Salim Raj, remarked:

“Is Kerala’s administration functioning only to serve the mafia? Does this mere police constable think he is the chief minister? Why should people be so afraid of him? Is even the state DGP scared of this policeman? What kind of democracy is this?”

The judge’s remark came in the wake of complaints from many members of the public, the Opposition, and even repeated comments by the courts about the United Democratic Front (UDF) government’s unstinted support for Salim Raj, whenever he landed in trouble. Justice Rashid was particularly disturbed by the state DGP K.S. Balasubramanian, who on receiving an alleged land grabbing complaint against Salim Raj forwarded it to the Chief Minister instead of taking action himself.

Due to Salim Raj’s clout with the government his name was not included in the FIR registered by the police on a land grab case in Kochi in spite of the petitions asserted that he was the main culprit.

Salim Raj has also been accused of having played a role in the solar scam in addition to other charges related to land grab, fabrication of records, abduction, among others.

Salim Raj who belongs to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s home district Kottayam has been the CM’s official bodyguard since 2005 when he was an Opposition leader. In 2009, Chandy inducted Salim Raj into the Chief Minister’s security detail, ignoring adverse intelligence reports about him.

Sridharan Nair (Pic: Indiavision)
Sridharan Nair (Pic: Indiavision)

When Sreedharan Nair, a victim of the scam, wanted further assurance about the project to manufacture solar panels, he was asked to sign an MOU with a commitment of र5.5 crore. He then had to pay र25 lakh out of the first instalment of र40 lakh before being taken to the Chief Minister’s office, where Tenny Joppan gave an assurance for the investment in the solar panel plant to be installed at Kanjikode in Palakkad district. An agreement in this regard was signed at Joppan’s cabin at the Chief Minister’s office. Sreedharan Nair had asserted that he had even met the chief minister, accompanied by Saritha Nair.

To gain media coverage and credibility the Global Management of Team Solar instituted awards that carried prize money. On June 11, 2011, at a function held at Hotel Dreams, Ernakulam, six prominent people of Kerala were proffered the ‘Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Awards 2011‘ and ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar‘ award for their work in the field of environmental protection.

Prof. Dr. S. Sitaraman, renowned environmental activist and Secretary of Association of Environmental Protection was presented the 'Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar' by K. P. Mohanan, Minister for Agriculture in presense of company officials and Hybi Edan, MLA, Ernakulam.
Prof. Dr. S. Sitaraman, renowned environmental activist and Secretary of Association of Environmental Protection was presented the ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar’ by K. P. Mohanan, Minister for Agriculture in presense of company officials and Hybi Edan, MLA, Ernakulam.

Prof. Dr. S. Sitaraman, renowned environmental activist and Secretary of Association of Environmental Protection and president of Kerala Brahmana Sabha, Aluva Upasabha, Fr. Johnson J. Palakkappillil, principal, Sacred Heart College and Dr. Georgekutty Karianappalli, CEO, Lifeway Solar were awarded the ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar‘.

 Malayalam film star Mammooty is among six persons chosen for the ‘Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Awards 2011′ and ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar’ award for their work in the field of environmental protection.
Malayalam film star Mammooty is among six persons chosen for the ‘Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Awards 2011′ and ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar’ award for their work in the field of environmental protection.

Malayalam cine star Mammootty, Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany, and K. K. Krishnadas, CEO of Vallarpadam Transhipment Terminal-DP World, were among the six beneficiaries of the ‘Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Award‘.

K.P. Mohanan, Minister for Agriculture, and Hybi Edan, MLA, Ernakulam attended the function.

Mayor Chammany told reporters that Saritha under the name Lakshmi Nair had approached him and told him about their award. He said he had met Biju Radhakrishnan at the award function and was introduced to him as Dr. R.B. Nair. He further said:

Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany“I was told that the award, as part of their World Environment Day celebration, was for the council’s decision to adopt energy efficient lighting practices. As many other eminent people were also receiving the award, I did not see anything wrong in accepting it. It is only now that I found out about her name and the scam. … But she has not received any help or support from me.”

Even though there were some complaints about Team Solar, no action was taken against them. A senior police official said:

The problem was that no one came forward to lodge a formal complaint, as they used to concentrate on people with unaccounted money. A majority of the victims chose not to proceed with the case and were happy if they got the money back.

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Next → Part 2 – The Arrests

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