Close on the heels of a case of amassing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income and charges of his alleged role in the Rs3.3-billion hawala scam, another graft case has been filed against Tourism Minister K.V. Thomas in the Thrissur Enquiry and Vigilance Court.

As in the first case, the latest too is filed by an activist of the Congress party to which Thomas belongs and this too raises charges of accumulating wealth after he left his job as a lecturer and entered politics.

The case filed by Biju C. Valluvanadan of Panampally Nagar in Ernakulam was put off by Vigilance Special Judge S. Sathineenesan to today for hearing the Vigilance Prosecutor's opinion. The earlier petition filed by Congress party worker K.V. Job also would come up for hearing on the same day.

While the first complainant estimated Thomas' wealth at Rs250 million, the second said even on a conservative estimate he had wealth amounting to Rs200 million and he could have earned through his college job and as a Member of Parliament only Rs2 million. Both the complainants noted that Thomas was born in an ordinary agricultural family.

Biju's complaint included some fresh charges not raised by the first complainant. It alleged that the toll at the bridge at Thoppumpadi in Kochi, built in terms of BOT was collected by a benami company of Thomas. The firm registered in Mumbai in October 1999 named Kochi Bridges Infrastructure Company belonged to a nephew of the accused.

The petition said Thomas bought 1.9 acres of land at Kallissery in Kumbalangi Panchayat in 1996 and took on hire the nearby 25 acres soon after he became the Tourism Minister and began building an Art Village in the name of the government.

Sherly, the wife of Thomas, had three highly priced fishing boats in her name at Neendakara coast. The petition also mentions that a firm was established at Thoppumpadi in Kochi in the name of his wife and his daughter's marriage was held spending millions.

In the infamous French spy case involving the illegal survey of the Kochi coast by a sophisticated French boat, he allegedly accepted Rs500,000 while he was a MP. When he was a MP he used to collect airfare to New Delhi from a number of people who approached him for help to get things done.

These tickets were later cancelled and encashed because he travelled free as a MP. He had an investment of Rs10.5 million in the Benhar Finance Company near Ernakulam North Railway Station and Rs2.5 million in the name of his daughter in the St Mary's Bank, according to the petitioner.

It suggested that Deputy Inspector General Sree Lekha, who has just returned after a deputation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the apex Indian investigating agency, be entrusted with the task of investigating the case.

Stressing the need for registering a case against the minister immediately and searching his premises, the petitioner said, "Otherwise, there is every likelihood of manipulation and tampering of evidence by the accused, and ultimately he will escape from the legal hook".

The month-long standoff between the media and the government that followed curbs on the visual media in the state assembly coverage has worsened with Surya Television running a news story that Thomas was involved in the Rs3.36 billion transferred to Kerala bank branches from Mumbai allegedly for anti-national or other disruptive activities.

The police raid on the television offices has given rise to protest from the media and other quarters.

Thomas, meanwhile, called a press conference in Kochi yesterday but refused to appear before reporters who had gathered in Ernakulam Guest House.