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Friday, June 9, 2023

Kerala minister tries to cheat the court

CPM strongman Pinarayi Vijayan is under attack due to damaging evidence on state transport minister Anthony Raju’s involvement in altering concrete evidence in a three-decade-old narcotics case involving a foreign national. Raju is the minister for road transport, motor vehicles, and water transport, the leader of the Janadhipathya Kerala Congress, and was elected to the Kerala legislative assembly from Thiruvananthapuram in 2021. 

Suppose Raju gets booted out of the Cabinet. In that case, he will be the second victim in the current LDF administration after Saji Cherian, who was forced to resign after publicly defaming Bharat’s Constitution.

In 1990, immigration authorities from Kerala detained Andrew Salvatore Cervelli for smuggling hashish in his underwear. The clothing had been listed as a material object in the investigation by the police. Cervelli was found guilty of drug smuggling by the trial court and punished. The district court in Thiruvananthapuram sentenced him to ten years of hard labor after a two-year trial.

Raju, a practicing advocate, took the case to the Kerala high court. According to court documents, Raju, who represented the accused, obtained his client’s briefs after submitting a request. Raju did so after signing his name in the receiving register. He returned it after five months!

When the foreigner appealed the verdict, his attorney Raju claimed in front of the High Court that the charge against Cervelli was unjustified and that the inner wear would not match the suspect. In his complaint, the investigating officer KK Jayamohan expressed his concern that the evidence had been tampered with, but the courts did not care. Based on the tampered brief, the court declared the accused not guilty, and Cervelli left Bharat.

The case resurfaced when the foreigner was detained by the Victoria Police (Australia) on murder charges in 1996. Cervelli alleged he had hired an advocate to tamper with the Kerala case’s evidence. Australian police informed Interpol about the tip-off regarding the drug mafia. 

The Interpol forwarded the matter to the Kerala police through the CBI. A later investigation discovered that the accused’s underwear had been tampered with. Jose K, the court clerk, told police that he handed over the underwear to one of Cervelli’s advocates in August 1990, and a smaller pair was sent back to him in December. Jose was paid for replacing the evidence. He was supported by entries in the police registry as well.

The investigation team later identified Raju, a junior counsel in the district court at the time, as the lawyer in question. Raju, a young leader in the Kerala Congress, gave up his legal career to enter politics full-time.

Forensic officials found that the underwear was trimmed and re-stitched to make it smaller. In 2006, the district court instructed police to file a cheating case against Raju and the court clerk and the State police charged Raju as the tampering case’s main accused. As a result, the LDF disqualified him from running in the 2006 assembly elections.

Raju allegedly conspired to protect his client. It is alleged that Raju destroyed evidence and helped the Australian national avoid the law. Technical issues caused the case to drag on. Raju has been out on bail ever since.

Cervelli was eventually arrested and imprisoned in his own country for the murder case. Raju’s political and legal standing has deteriorated further due to an Interpol report detailing how Cervelli paid bribes to erase tangible evidence. 

Even though the charge sheet against Raju for tampering with evidence was filed many years ago, the prosecution did nothing to advance the trial. The case was postponed by the court more than 22 times. But thanks to the media, the evidence against Raju is now available to the public.

Raju’s morality in continuing to serve as a state minister and lawmaker is being questioned. If Vijayan has any principles left, he should fire the minister who defrauded the legal system for financial gains. Raju protected a foreign criminal convicted in a narcotics case by tricking the court and has done injustice to our country.

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