Bar bribery scam: Kerala Tourism Department’s role questioned

Satheesan alleged that bar owners began collecting and handing over money following the meeting on May 21.

Bar bribery scam: Kerala Tourism Department’s role questioned

Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan. (photo:ANI)

Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly VD Satheesan called the claims of Excise Minister MB Rajesh and Tourism Minister PA Mohammed Riyas of having discussed the revision of liquor policy are blatant lie.

At a press conference in Kochi on Sunday, Satheesan asked why the tourism minister hastily tweaked the liquor policy, which is the domain of the excise department. “For the past two months, there have been consultations on the liquor policy. At the monthly meeting convened by the chief secretary earlier last month, the tourism secretary was tasked to submit a report on the change in liquor policy. Bar owners also participated in the meeting called by the tourism department on May 21,” he said.

“I have the link to the meeting held on Zoom. In that meeting, discussions were held on the ‘dry day’ and extending the opening hours of bars. Following this, a meeting of bar owners was held in Ernakulam and instructions were given to collect money to get the policy revised in favour of them. The ministers’ statement that no consultation took place is a lie,” the leader of the Opposition added.


Satheesan alleged that bar owners began collecting and handing over money following the meeting on May 21. He claimed that the leader of the bar owners’ Union explicitly stated there would be no changes to the liquor policy unless payments were made.

He asked why a vigilance inquiry was not announced despite a complaint about the change in the liquor policy.


Stating that the previous Oommen Chandy government had announced a vigilance investigation when there were allegations of bar bribery against KM Mani, he asked the LDF Government why they didn’t follow that model.


Accusing the excise and tourism ministers of lying about the corruption allegations related to the liquor policy, Satheesan posed the following six questions to the government.


1. Why did the Tourism Department bypass the Excise Department?


2. Why did the ministers lie?


3. Why did Minister MB Rajesh file a complaint with the DGP?


4. Why did the tourism minister hastily intervene in the bar policy?


5. Why wasn’t the vigilance investigation model used against K.


M. Mani implemented?


6. Why is the chief minister silent on the whole issue?


In this connection, the Tourism Department clarified that they had convened a meeting on the liquor policy without the knowledge of the Tourism Minister Muhammad Riyas. The department said the purpose of the meeting was to collect feedback on the liquor policy within the tourism industry and present a report to the chief secretary.


Meanwhile, a special team from the Crime Branch wing of the police has been assigned to investigate the alleged bar bribery allegations. The Crime Branch will conduct a preliminary investigation without formally registering a case. Superintendent of Police Madhusoodhanan, from the Crime Branch’s Thiruvananthapuram unit, will oversee the investigations.


The bar bribery allegation made headlines when an audio clip, purportedly sent by an office bearer of the Federation of Kerala Bar Association, a collective of bar owners, found its way to the media in which the leader was heard saying each bar owner needs to pay Rs 2.5 lakh to fulfill their demands such as scrapping of the dry day policy and extending bar working hours from 11 pm to 12 pm. These suggestions are already being discussed by the state government ahead of formulating its new liquor policy for the year.