By LE Desk

Kochi, June 9, 2021: In a new twist to the sensational highway heist case in which allegations of “hawala” connections were raised against the Kerala BJP leadership, three people, including the complainant, filed a claim petition in a court here on Tuesday seeking the release of the money and the vehicle seized by the police from the culprits.

In their petition filed before the judicial magistrate’s court in Irinjalakuda near here, the complainant in the case, Shamjeer, and two others — Dharmaraj and Sunil Kumar — claimed that the money looted from the car was meant for business purposes.

They claimed that the stolen money and the car used to transport it belonged to them, news agency PTI reported.

The development came a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed the state Assembly that the police had handed over the details of the probe into the April 4 Kodakara hawala heist case allegedly involving the state BJP leadership to the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The petitioners submitted that the money amounting to Rs 1.4 crore, the gold ornaments and other articles seized by the police from the arrested culprits in the heist case and produced before the court were part of the stolen property.

Therefore, petitioners Dharmaraj and Sunil Kumar, who require the money for business purposes, had approached the police requesting that at least the seized cash may be returned to them, they submitted.

The stolen money belongs to the petitioners, with Dharmaraj being the owner of an amount of Rs 3.25 crore and Sunil Kumar being the owner of Rs 25 lakh. The third petitioner, Shamjeer, is the owner of the Ertiga car in which the money was kept, the petitioners claimed.

The BJP in Kerala, facing charges of using “hawala” money in the April 6 Assembly polls, has accused the CPI(M)-led LDF government in the state of playing the “politics of revenge” against it in connection with the highway heist.

The saffron party has alleged that instead of checking the call lists of the accused in the heist case, the police were going through the call list of Dharmaraj, who is the complainant in the case.

Instead of nabbing the robbers and recovering the money, the police are looking at how the case can be linked to the BJP, as the person who lost the money had helped the party in its election campaign, it has alleged.

The BJP has also alleged that barring one, all others arrested in the case are associated with the CPI(M) and the CPI.

On Monday, the “hawala” heist case led to a war of words between the chief minister and Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan in the state Assembly, after the Congress leader asked whether there was a plan on part of the Left government to compromise the case for the BJP.

According to a complaint filed by Shamjeer Samsudheen on April 7, a gang had stopped his car on the Kodakara flyover here and looted Rs 25 lakh kept in the vehicle when he was on his way to Kochi from Kozhikode.

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

Police have arrested 21 people in connection with the case.

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