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Kerala’s Money Heist: A Highway Robbery Worth Crores & A BJP Link

The chain of incidents started on April 3 in Kodakara, just three days before the 2021 Kerala Assembly elections.

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What started as a money heist on a highway in April has now snowballed into a political controversy in Kerala, especially within the BJP in the state.
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What started as a money heist on a highway in April has now snowballed into a political controversy in Kerala, especially within the BJP in the state. The case in question involves a huge amount of money — supposedly Rs 3.5 crore — that was claimed to be looted on a state highway while it was being transported between two districts in Kerala.

During the course of the investigation, the police have uncovered the role of BJP in this ‘money heist’ in Thrissur’s Kodakara.

Although the officials have refused to divulge the latest details of the investigation, the saga has thrown up a lot of uncomfortable questions for the BJP. Was the money transported by BJP from Karnataka to Kerala? Was the money ‘looted’ by a few BJP leaders in Kerala who were aware of the transportation? Why was the money funnelled into the state?

The ruling CPI(M) party has alleged that the BJP was planning to use the money to “purchase votes” for the 2021 Kerala Assembly Election, which was held on 6 April. The BJP state leadership, on the other hand, is distancing itself from the controversy.

A Twist in The Tale

The incident took place on 3 April in Kodakara, on the Thrissur-Ernakulam highway, just three days before the election. A man named Shamjeer Shamsudeen was transporting money in a vehicle that was supposedly going from Thrissur to Kochi. As they reached the Kodakara flyover in Thrissur, around nine men in two vehicles waylaid Shamjeer's car, allegedly assaulted him and looted the entire amount in the vehicle.

According to a report in the Times of India, the gang allegedly staged a fake traffic incident to intercept Shamjeer’s vehicle.

Four days later, Shamjeer filed a complaint of robbery at the Kodakara police station, which is 500 metres away from the scene of the crime. In his complaint, Shamjeer said that an amount of Rs 25 lakh was looted from his vehicle, which was allegedly meant for a land deal.

The police registered the First Information Report (FIR) on 7 April. This is where the twist started. The police found that it was not Rs 25 lakh, but a much larger amount that was being transported. The next, immediate questions before the police were — How much money was being ferried? For whom? By whom?

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RSS Man Dharmarajan’s Links

Shamjeer, who drove the vehicle, did not turn up alone at the police station to file the complaint four days after the heist. He came along with his employer, AK Dharmarajan, an RSS member. It was Dharmarajan who handed over the amount to Shamjeer to transport it. In the complaint, the duo claimed that the car was travelling from Thrissur to Kochi.

The Kodakara police officials told TNM that initially, they had no doubts about the veracity of the complaint. Dharmarajan had claimed that the money was borrowed from many people.

However, the police first arrested a man named Deepak and then went on to arrest 19 more people, who were allegedly involved in the heist. As they started recovering the money that was stolen, they found that the amount was much more than Rs 25 lakh.

This is when the police confronted Dharmarajan, who, in turn, said that a Yuva Morcha leader named Sunil Naik had given him the money. When the Kodakara police contacted Sunil Naik, he said that he had borrowed the money from three sources and had given it to Dharmarajan, who was his business associate. By then, the police realised that the amount involved was approximately Rs 3.5 crore.

This is when more raids started at the houses of the men who were behind the heist. The police have reportedly recovered around Rs 1 crore till now.
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The BJP Angle

The BJP’s role in the black money heist did not come to the fore until Dharmarajan said that the money was meant for the BJP.

Dharmarajan also said that it was the BJP state leader who booked a hotel room for him in Thrissur. Thrissur BJP Secretary KK Aneesh Kumar has admitted that the BJP booked the room. However, he maintains that Dharmarajan was in charge of printing election material, which is why a room was booked for him.

Dharmarajan also told the police that the money was meant to be handed over to BJP Alappuzha district treasurer KG Kartha, and that the BJP state organisation secretary M Ganeshan and state office secretary G Gireesh were aware of the transportation.

However, on questioning, Ganeshan and Gireesh reportedly told the police that they were in touch with Dharmarajan regarding the election propaganda material, and they had no idea about the money.

Though the police reportedly found the statements to be contradictory, none of the state BJP leaders have been arrested in the case till now.

Things got murkier as one of the main suspects in the heist case, Deepak, went to the BJP office in Thrissur after the money was caught. It is also being reported that various BJP leaders had meetings with the people who were involved in the heist.

The BJP admitted that Deepak was indeed summoned to the office, but Thrissur BJP Secretary KK Aneesh Kumar maintains that the party was conducting a parallel probe after initial reports said that one of the accused men was from the BJP, and that this was why Deepak was asked to come to the BJP office.

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There are several questions before the police now — Was the money being transported for the BJP? Was a section of BJP leaders, who were aware of this transportation, trying to loot the money? It is to be noted here that the police have summoned various BJP leaders for questioning, but no case for hawala transactions has yet been registered.

Internal Feud in Kerala BJP

As more state BJP leaders were being questioned, houses were being raided, and more money was being unearthed, an internal feud was gradually brewing within the party in Kerala. The state leadership tried to distance itself from the controversy, alleging that the money was not intended for the BJP in Kerala.

Recently, the BJP workers in Thrissur squabbled over the Kodakara hawala money case on WhatsApp groups. In one group named ‘Vyasa Nagar’, BJP workers alleged that the BJP district treasurer had links to this robbery, which some factions of the party denied.

On 31 May, the factional feud on WhatsApp extended to a vaccination centre in Vadanappally in Thrissur, where the argument resulted in a clash. One BJP member was stabbed during the clash and admitted to the hospital.

Rishi Palpu, BJP’s former OBC Morcha vice-president, too criticised the party’s Thrissur administration, following which, he was expelled from the party. Strongly condemning the clash between the party workers in a Facebook post, Rishi Palpu raised allegations of a party leader’s connection in the theft, and that it brought shame to the nation's ruling party. He also called to dissolve the Thrissur leadership, which irked the state party leaders. BJP Kerala state president K Surendran then ousted from the party.

(This story was published on The News Minute and has been republished here with permission)

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