The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) Kerala, late on Thursday indicted its former director Jacob Thomas for conspiracy, corruption and bid rigging in a bribery scandal relating to the purchase of costly dredging equipment when he was the Director of Ports (DOP), in 2011-12.
The arraignment comes soon after the Government rejected Mr Thomas’ application for voluntary retirement to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Chalakudy constituency.
K.E. Baiju, SP, Special Investigation Unit-I, VACB, filed the First Information Report (FIR) against Mr. Thomas in the court of Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge, D. Ajith Kumar.
The charge pertained to the purchase of cutting suction dredger to keep Kerala’s waterways from silting up and navigable when Mr. Thomas was in charge of ports.
The FIR said the public exchequer had lost money due to improper estimate, suspicious fixing of the annual maintenance contract in favour of the supplier and exclusion of the foreign vendor from paying taxes and duties.
The FIR also inveighed against Mr. Thomas for allegedly not ensuring that the firm provided the critical discharge lines required to siphon off the dredged mud as part of its contractual obligation.
In its FIR, the VACB has attempted to make a case that Mr. Thomas had conspired with agents of the foreign firm to accord the private entity “illegitimate pecuniary gain”.
The FIR also accused Mr. Thomas of having tailored the technical specifications of the required machinery to match the equipment the vendor hoped to supply.
It pegged the “illegitimate gain” reaped by the company at ₹2.76 crore and the total loss to the Government at ₹14.96 crore.
Mr. Thomas, the senior-most IPS officer in the State, has portrayed the allegations as malicious and ill-motivated. The Government had suspended Mr Thomas in 2018 ostensibly to insulate the anti-corruption enquiry against any “extraneous influence”.
Mr. Thomas had in 2019 appealed against the suspension at the Central Administrative Tribunal, CAT, Ernakulam. In the appeal, Mr. Thomas has sought to rebut the corruption charges against him in granular detail.