Gold smuggling case: Kerala govt opposes ED move to shift trial to Karnataka

Published on Oct 02, 2022 12:40 PM IST

Kerala state additional chief secretary approached the Supreme Court on Saturday questioning the ED plan saying the central agency did not give any valid reason to shift the case out of the state and its move will discredit the state apparatus

The Kerala gold smuggling case took a dramatic turn in June after accused Swapna Suresh gave a confidential statement before a magistrate court in Ernakulam alleging chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan knew about everything. (PTI File Photo)
The Kerala gold smuggling case took a dramatic turn in June after accused Swapna Suresh gave a confidential statement before a magistrate court in Ernakulam alleging chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan knew about everything. (PTI File Photo)

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M)-led Kerala government is desperately trying to stall the Enforcement Directorate (ED) move to​ shift trial of the sensational gold smuggling case to neighbouring Karnataka. A division bench of the Supreme Court is expected to take up the ED plea on Oct 10.

State additional chief secretary V Venu approached the Supreme Court on Saturday questioning the ED plan saying the central agency did not give any valid reason to shift the case out of the state and its move will discredit the state apparatus. In the plea he contended that ED made some sweeping comments about some political and bureaucratic positions without any substance and the state never obstructed the ongoing investigation in any manner.

The state government fears that once the case is shifted to another state “it will be misused to settle political scores”. Some of the serious charges raised by main accused Swapna Suresh also bothers it. A senior official said the government views it seriously and more pleas are likely by next week.

Earlier, senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer M Sivasankar, one of the accused in the gold smuggling and money laundering cases, filed an objection in the SC saying it was not proper to shift the case to another state after filing the charge-sheet. He said the move was politically-motivated and requested the court not to take any decision without hearing him.

ED moved the Supreme Court in July seeking transfer of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case filed in connection with gold smuggling to a special court in Karnataka. It said senior officers of the agency were hounded by the state machinery and since influential people were involved there were attempts to thwart investigation.

It said one of the main accused M Sivasankar, who was principal secretary to the chief minister at the time of offence, wields substantial power and influence in the state and he was using these to thwart the case and respondents were being influenced and intimidated. It cited police cases and judicial commission against the ED officials which were later stayed by the high court. Since some of the accused were influential there are chances of derailing the ongoing investigation and trial, it said. In July 2021, the high court stayed the judicial commission ordered by the state government against ED officials.

The gold smuggling case, which surfaced in July 2020, has witnessed many twists and turns in last two years. The can was opened after 30 kg of gold worth 15 crore seized from a baggage to the United Arab Emirates consulate in the state capital by the Customs. A former employee of the consulate P S Sarith who came to receive the consignment was arrested the same day and after a week the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested second accused Swapna Suresh and her accomplice Sandeep Nair from their hideout in Bengaluru. Sivasankar was made an accused and arrested by ED. Under suspension for more than a year he was taken back in service in January this year.

The case took a dramatic turn in June after Swapna Suresh gave a confidential statement before a magistrate court in Ernakulam in which she alleged “the chief minister knew about everything and heavy biryani pots were taken to his house from the UAE consulate several times”. She also levelled serious charges against former minister K T Jaleel and Sivasankar. Subsequently, two cases were filed against her.

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