CPI (M) leader Kodiyeri’s wife summoned by Customs for builder’s smartphone gift
The Customs department on Saturday summoned Vinodini Balakrishnan, the wife of former Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan for questioning on March 10 in connection with an expensive smartphone allegedly gifted by builder Sanotsh Eapen, who faces probe for alleged irregularities in the Life Mission project in Thrissur.
People aware of the matter said the irregularities in the free housing project for the homeless came to light as central agencies were probing the gold and dollar smuggling activities routed through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
They added Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the smuggling case, has told investigators that ₹one crore in cash allegedly found in her locker was the commission she received for clinching a deal with international aid agency Red Crescent which funded the project.
The people said during the investigation, Eapen told central agencies that besides ₹4 crore commission in ₹20 crore project, he also gifted four mobile phones as asked by Suresh. Later all three phones were located and seized. But the agencies could not trace the expensive phone worth ₹1.13 lakh which the customs now claim was later traced to Vinodini Balakrishnan, the people added.
The people said after the smuggling case came to light in July last year, the user stopped using this phone before it was allegedly traced to Vinodini Balakrishnan through a sale code and SIM card. She has been asked to appear at the Customs office in Kochi.
The Balakrishnans were immediately unavailable for comments. The copy will be updated when they respond to requests for a response to the summon.
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was forced to resign from the party post last year after his son, Bineesh, was arrested in drug smuggling and money laundering cases in Bengaluru.
At least five central agencies including the National Investigation Agency are probing the gold smuggling and related cases.
The customs department cited Suresh and told the Kerala high court on Friday that chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, three ministers of his Left Democratic Front cabinet, and the Speaker of the assembly were aware of the smuggling.
Vijayan and the ruling CPI(M) dismissed the allegations as a “cheap poll-time gimmick” ahead of elections in the state next month.