ED Gets Custody of Businessman Santhosh Eappen in Life Mission Case

A special court here on Tuesday granted the Enforcement Directorate (ED) the custody of Kochi-based businessman Santhosh Eappen, arrested by the central agency in connection with alleged financial irregularities in implementing a flagship housing project of the Kerala government.

Eappen, managing director of Unitac Builders, was arrested by the agency after his interrogation at ED office here on Monday. The Special Court (for Prevention of Money Laundering Act) granted the agency custody till March 23.

Eappen is the first accused in the case of the alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act in the Life Mission housing project.

The ED had earlier arrested M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in connection with the case. The court today extended the judicial custody of Sivasankar till April 4.

Meanwhile, the interrogation of U V Jose — former CEO of Life Mission project — in connection with the case is underway at the ED office here. Earlier, the CBI had investigated the case.

The CBI had in 2020 filed an FIR in a Kochi court under Section 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 35 of FCRA on a complaint by then Wadakkanchery MLA and Congress leader Anil Akkara, listing Eappen as the first accused and the company Sane Ventures as the second accused.

The two companies, Unitac Builders and Sane Ventures, had undertaken the construction based on the agreement entered into with Red Crescent, an international humanitarian movement, that had agreed to provide Rs 20 crore for the Life Mission project.

The Congress has been alleging that there was corruption involved in the selection of the contractor by Red Crescent.

The alleged FCRA violation and corruption in the project had snowballed into a major political issue at the time with opposition parties charging that Swapna Suresh, prime accused in gold smuggling case had admitted before an NIA court that she had received Rs 1 crore as commission from the project. She had reportedly claimed that the money was meant for Sivasankar.

However, the former Life Mission CEO had then submitted before the court that Unitac Builders and Sane Ventures had undertaken the construction based on the agreement that they entered into with Red Crescent and had directly accepted foreign contributions from Red Crescent, which is a foreign agency.

The former CEO had also contended that the companies that signed an agreement with the Red Crescent do not come under the categories of persons prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution as per Section 3 of FCRA.

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