Highway robbery: Senior BJP leaders fail to appear for questioning

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Thrissur (Kerala), May 23 (PTI): Two senior BJP leaders, summoned in connection with the recent highway robbery of hawala money at Kodakara here ahead of the April 6 Assembly polls, did not turn up for the interrogation on Sunday, police said.

A special investigation team, probing into the incident that took place on April 3, three days ahead of the State Assembly polls, had asked RSS leader and BJP State organisation secretary M Ganeshan and party officesecretary Gireesh to appear for questioning.

But, both of them informed their inconvenience to appear, a senior police official said.

'We have asked them to appear for interrogation here today. But, they informed that they had some inconvenience to turn up. We will issue a fresh notice to them. So far, 19 people have been arrested in connection with the case,' he told PTI.

The investigators had already questioned BJP Thrissur district general secretary K R Hari and Ayyanthole Area Secretary G Kashinadhan in connection with the highway robbery of the hawala money.

The summoning of Ganeshan and Gireesh has indicated that more State leaders of BJP-RSS would be quizzed in this regard.

According to the police, the robbery had occurred on April 3.

As per the complaint filed by one Shamjeer Samsudheen on April 7, an unknown gang had stopped the car he had driven on the Kodakara flyover here and robbed him of as much as Rs 25 lakh kept in the vehicle when he was on his way to Kochi from Kozhikode.

The driver had told police that Dharmarajan, a reported RSS activist in Kozhikode, had handed over him the money.

As per the latter's statement, he had received the cash from Sunil Naik, former state treasurer of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of BJP.

Though the complaint had said that only Rs 25 lakh was stolen, the investigators later found that actual amount could be about Rs 3.5 crore, and it was a hawala transaction, police sources said.

'We have so far recovered nearly Rs one crore of this and the probe is going on to unearth the entire amount,' the senior official added.

Though the accused had told police that the money was meant for real estate business, the ruling CPI(M) had alleged that it was part of black money brought for the election campaign of a national party and sought a detailed probe into the incident.

However, BJP State president K Surendran on Saturday said his party had no connection with the incident.

Alleging that there was an attempt to link the BJP with the case and tarnish its image, the leader said the interrogation of the party leaders was only a drama.

The saffron party never used any illegal money for campaigning, he added.

When asked whether the investigation into the highway robbery case was moving towards the higher leaders of BJP, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Saturday that he had no clue about it.

'It should be asked to the police,' he had told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram. PTI LGK NVG NVG