IGST row: Missing the woods for the forest

IGST row: Kerala CM's daughter Veena T and her now defunct company profited from 'unrendered' services, raising questions of nepotism and possible money laundering.
Kerala CM P Vijayan's daughter Veena and her activities with Cochin Minerals and Rutiles Ltd
Kerala CM P Vijayan's daughter Veena and her activities with Cochin Minerals and Rutiles Ltd

# Ajayan

 In an intricate tapestry of the Cochin Minerals and Rutiles company payment to the daughter of the Kerala Chief Minister for ‘unrendered’ services, it might appear to be a case where the broader perspective is overshadowed by a single event of IGST.

Seemingly, Congress leader Mathew Kuzhalnadan, MLA, may have unwittingly fallen into the snare set by the ruling CPM over IGST payment for the around Rs 1.72 crore made by the company to CM’s daughter Veena T and her now suddenly defunct company as part of an  IT services agreement. The quasi-judicial authority, Income-Tax Settlement Board, said it was ‘wrongful’ as no services were rendered. It clarified the payments were disbursed as she was the daughter of a prominent politician, further revealing several politicians were given such payments, a substantial amount of which went to one ‘PV’ whose initials when expanded read Pinarayi Vijayan.

Ironically, it is the CPM that has been providing a defence for the payments made to the IT company and Veena, and it continues to do so, bolstered now by the GST payment revelation. While it is a fact that the payments were made through the bank, which necessitates tax filing and payment, this does not exonerate those who profited from the transactions. CPM leaders have been vociferous in asserting that payment of GST rendered the transaction legal, seemingly placing Mathew in a difficult position.

The State Finance Minister reportedly made public that all required taxes were paid, though detailed information was withheld on grounds of privacy. The CM, after a prolonged period of silence, said on two occasions that the entire issue was targeted against him, his family and his party. He went so far as to assert that he was not the ‘PV’ referred to in the settlement board report. This is also when a few other politicians mentioned in the report admitted to receiving payments, contending that these were donations to their parties.

Significant issues linger, and the matter cannot be kept under wraps focusing solely on the IGST payment. The CM had mentioned on two occasions that a ‘group’ had contacted him around the time of the CMRL deal claiming his daughter’s firm was engaging with a company having ‘terrorist links’. He promptly told the ‘group’ that they need not proceed because it was a company of reputation. He needs to clarify before the people of the State who that group was and what was the outcome of that probe.

Furthermore, it is a quasi-judicial body that has asserted that substantial payments were made by a company, which has been constantly under the Pollution Control Board surveillance, to the Chief Minister. This necessitates that the Chief Minister provides a clear and transparent explanation, especially when a few other politicians mentioned in the list have admitted that they have received amounts. To address this, there should either be a thorough probe or he should take a legal course of action against what he claims as an attempt to tarnish his image. All these will also help in holding  other beneficiaries of the company sops accountable. 

Also, the fact that since Veena is the daughter of a prominent politician as stated by the company for being awarded a service contract naturally raises questions of nepotism, besides attracting provisions of the money laundering Act.

In these circumstances, merely invoking IGST as a cover will not be sufficient to conceal the truth. It is important to note that public money has been potentially misused by a company in which the State Government’s KSIDC holds a stake.

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