Gold smuggling case: ED moves Kerala HC, seeks quashing of FIR against officials
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday moved the Kerala High Court seeking to quash the FIR registered against its officials by Kerala police for allegedly forcing Swapna Suresh, key accused in the gold smuggling case, to give statements against chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
In its plea, the ED alleged the FIR was registered against its unnamed officials with "ulterior motive of derailing the statutory investigation" under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) into a large economic offence of smuggling of huge quantities of gold.
In its prayer, the ED submitted that the FIR filed be quashed or the investigation be transferred from the state police to the CBI to ensure an impartial investigation.
The central agency also wanted the court to stay all further proceedings pursuant to the FIR against ED officials and direct no coercive action against the officers of the Enforcement Directorate "who are performing their official duties" under the PMLA 2002 pending disposal of the petition.
The impugned FIR has been registered with an oblique motive to put pressure on the Investigating Officers,besides also "ensure that trial is not conducted in a fair and impartial manner because certain highly placed persons are involved in this case," the ED submitted. It also submitted that the preliminary inquiry allegedly conducted by the state police was clearly a farce.
The Crime Branch registered the case on March17 on the basis of a report filed by the Crime Branch team which was probing the leak of a voice clip, purportedly belonging to Suresh.
According to the FIR, the ED officials, probing the gold smuggling case while questioning an accused named Swapna Prabha Suresh on August 12 and 13, 2020, have forced her to give false statements against the state chief minister in order to make fake evidence.
The Crime Branch case has been registered under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 167 (public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 192 (fabricating false evidence), 195-A (threatening any person to give false evidence), among others, of the Indian Penal Code.
Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate here, is the prime accused in the case relating to the smuggling of 30 kg of gold worth ₹14.82 crore in a diplomatic baggage and now under judicial custody since her arrest.
In a voice clip purported to be that of Suresh circulated a few months ago, it was alleged that some ED officials had threatened her while she was being interrogated at the agency office in Kochi in August last year to give statements against Vijayan and some ministers.
Later, two women civil police officers, who had been with Suresh when she was interrogated by the ED, had also reportedly claimed they had heard the ED officials forcing her to name Vijayan.
Besides the ED, the Customs and the National Investigation Agency are also probing the smuggling of gold through the diplomatic channel.
Vijayan has been accusing the Central agencies of targeting his government.