When an opposition MLA raised the issue in the state Assembly and even dragged Chief Minister Oommen Chandy into the 'liquor scam', Excise Minister K Babu strongly defended the government and said that the liquor firms had sought introduction of free pricing but their appeals were turned down.
Earlier, CPI-M member Babu M Pallisery accused both the excise minister and Chandy of accepting a bribe of Rs 100 crore from liquor companies. The MLA levelled this charge in a written statement that he submitted under Rule 285 in the Assembly on Monday.
Pallisery noted that Rs 100 crore was handed over to Shafi Mather, the CM's economic adviser, at a meeting in Dubai recently. UB Group chairman and main promoter Vijay Mallya was among those who were present when Mather received the money on behalf of Chandy and the excise minister, the MLA said.
According to Pallisery, the companies wanted the Beverages Corporation to increase liquor and wine prices by six per cent. He alleged that the government agreed to their plea and assured the firms that the Beverages Corporation would look the other way if they further hiked the price of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL).
Pointing out that the UDF government had granted a total of 54 bar licences so far, the MLA said that a bribe of Rs 25 lakh was paid for each of them.
Pallisery also referred to a contract as per which the Kerala government has permitted liquor companies in Karnataka to paste holograms on IMFL bottles. He said that the state-owned Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT) could well have been awarded the same contract.
The CPI-M member demanded a judicial enquiry into the matter. "I am ready to submit evidence if such a probe is ordered," Pallisery asserted.
Replying to the MLA, the excise minister said that the Beverages Corporation director board had hiked liquor prices. "The liquor companies only benefited to the tune of Rs 49.9 crore from the corporation's decision. Then how can you say that Rs 100 crore corruption has taken place?" Babu demanded to know from Pallisery.