Kerala Finance Min Hits Out at ED Over Reported Probe Against KIIFB; Opposition Says He Has ‘Something to Hide’

Kerala Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac on Sunday lashed out at the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for its reported probe against the state-run KIIFB over borrowing from international markets, saying such ‘tactics’ would not scare them. He was reacting to reports in a section of media that the ED has started a probe against the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) and sought information from the Reserve Bank of India regarding its no-objection certificate to the board to borrow funds from international markets.

Isaac alleged the ED officials were leaking select information and directing the media houses on how to give headlines with regard to the KIIFB and asserted the central agency would not be allowed to undermine the authority of the state government. In a Facebook post and also addressing reporters, the Minister said the ED had sent a message to the media houses that “The C and AG has found that the Kerala govt has raised Rs 2,150 crore from international market without the consent of the Centre, using Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).

“Wouldn’t that amount to possible violation of FEMA.’KIIFB masala bond too has come under ED radar’,” the message said, he added.

The opposition Congress and BJP targeted Issac and asked why he was opposing the ED probe if the transactions through the KIIFB were transparent. Isaac said the ED officials may have seen “cowards who shiver” at the drop of the very name of the central agency but asked them not to expect the same in Kerala.

“I have one thing to say to the ED who have surrounded KIIFB with their radar. Your efforts will prove futile and your tactics are not going to scare us. You may have seen cowards who shiver at the very name of ED and beg for the Sangh Parivar’s mercy. Do not expect that in this land,” the Finance Minister said. He maintained that the ED does not have authority to probebased on newspaper reports.

“The CAG report is not outyet. The (assembly) Speaker had sought an explanation after the details of the CAG report came out in public domain before it was tabled. Further actions on CAG report can only be taken by the Public Accounts Committee and not the ED office in Kochi,” Isaac said. The Finance Minister also hit out at the Congress, saying they were playing a role devised by the BJP to topple the Kerala government.

State Congress chief Mullappally Ramachandran said the ED initiated a probe into KIIFB because they “found irregularities” in its projects and that loans were taken ‘against’ Constitutional provisions. “The finance minister is opposing the probe because he has something to hide.If the transactions through KIIFB were transparent, why is the minister opposing the probe?” he asked.

BJP state chief K Surendran said the CAG report was leaked due to fear of a probe into the Masala bond and other transactions of the KIIFB. “The finance minister is fooling the people by misleading them about the RBI NoC. Isaac should face the probe. The BJP’s protest is against the violation of law and not against KIIFB,” Surendran told reporters.

“If there is no corruption in the KIIFB, then why is the minister afraid of the probe,” he added. The CAG has submitted a report to the assembly suggesting that the KIIFB’s borrowing model was unconstitutional.

Isaac had earlier described as one-sided the CAG finding that the KIIFB’s borrowing model was unconstitutional. KIIFB is the primary agency of the state government for financing large and critical infrastructure projects and had last year raised Rs 2,150 crore through its debut masala bond issue as part of its plan to mobilise Rs 50,000 crore to fund large and critical infrastructure projects in the southern state.

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