5 “associates” of CM Rio summoned by ED were for Nagaland High Court building scam
DIMAPUR, MAY 5: The summon orders issued to five “associates” of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) earlier this year were in connection with the Nagaland High Court building scam, according to a report by The Print on Thursday.
As reported first by Nagaland Page ~ on April 3 and then on April 5 ~ five residents of Sovima Village namely Kuovisieo Rio, Dsesevi Pielie, Vibeilietuo Kets, Mengutuo Rio and Mhalelie Rio were issued with summon orders by the Guwahati office of ED in February under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) of 2002.
The matter came to light when the Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court, via two orders issued respectively on April 1 and April 5, rejected their protection pleas.
Two days later, on April 7, the Rising People’s Party (RPP) issued a press statement identifying Kuovisieo Rio, one of the recipients of the summon orders, as a “Personal Assistant” to the Chief Minister. The remaining four persons, it claimed, were “close confidants” of the Chief Minister.
On April 21, the five persons told the High Court that they have decided to appear before the ED authorities, and won’t press their writ petitions filed on April 5. Accordingly, the Court disposed of the writ petitions as not pressed.
The Print, in its report, pointed out that according to the list of appointments furnished in the Nagaland Government’s official calendar and diary of 2022, Kuovisieo Rio works as a Special Assistant in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO).
Citing a source in the ruling NDPP, the report stated that the other four persons were the CM’s “right-hand men” and “partners in contract works”.
“Sources in the ED told The Print that the five had been called for questioning in relation to an alleged scam involving the misappropriation of funds by Government officials and contractors during the construction of the new High Court complex in Nagaland’s capital, Kohima”, the report read.
It stated that the Gauhati High Court advocate Siddhartha Borgohain, who is representing the five persons, confirmed that the ED case is related to the alleged Nagaland High Court construction scam.
High Court scam
According to the report, the alleged scam surfaced in 2017 after the Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) filed an RTI application.
The NTC, in a press release, noted that foundation stones had been laid for new High Court complexes in Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Tripura in 2007. But while the projects in the other three States had been completed by 2013, the new High Court complex in Nagaland was still unfinished.
As per the RTI response, funds for the project had been withdrawn 18 times between March 2009 and March 2017, amounting to Rs 52.63 crore in total ~ exceeding the initial estimate by Rs 9.63 crore.
After this was reported, the Gauhati High Court took suo motu cognisance of the case and registered a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the Nagaland Government, including the Department of Finance, the Department of Justice and Law, the Department of Planning and the Public Works Department.
On May 2, 2018, it directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary inquiry into “allegations of misappropriation of public money vis-à-vis the snail pace of construction work of the new High Court complex” at Kohima.
On June 17, 2019, the CBI (Anti-Corruption Branch), Imphal, had registered an FIR against Nikato Assumi, Executive Engineer (Housing); Kelechuto Pienyu, Executive Engineer (R&B); Nimo Kath, SDO (R&B); Hukokha Sumi SDO (R&B); N Kikheto Sumi, Executive Engineer (Rtd); P Yapang Jamir, Junior Engineer; MI Tongzuk Ao, SDO (H); Rukongutuo Suohu, Executive Engineer (Electrical); Mhasivilie Savino, Junior Engineer (R&B); Vekho Swuro, Executive Engineer (Rtd); Thepfusatuo Rio, Managing Director of M/S Hexzad Syndicate; Avitue Sekhose, proprietor of M/S Khedi Trade and Development Agency; Beinyu Miachieo, proprietor of M/S Oking Electricals; and Vilelie Khamo, proprietor of M/S Vilelie Khamo.
As per the FIR, accessed by The Print, the preliminary inquiry “disclosed that the accused engineers of Nagaland PWD in criminal conspiracy with each other and also with the accused contractors had defrauded huge funds total amounting to Rs 3,61,72,552”.
The agency found instances of “substandard construction” in the main High Court building, as well as allegedly unaccounted and misappropriated payments in three other areas ~ “construction of the retaining wall in the new High Court complex”, “addition work for providing the retaining wall” and “construction of retaining wall and site levelling at new High Court complex”.
It also found that components worth over Rs 7 lakh meant to be used in the electric substation were missing and that the length and width of the road from the main highway to the main High Court building were shorter than prescribed.
As reported by Nagaland Page on February 10, the Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court had issued an order that day directing the Special CBI Court, Dimapur, to issue summons to the accused persons in order to facilitate the “expeditious disposal” of the case.
(Page News Service)