Gold smuggling case: Kerala police book ED for ‘forcing’ accused to name Vijayan
The Kerala police on Friday filed a complaint against officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for allegedly forcing Swapna Suresh, main accused in sensational gold smuggling case, to give a statement against chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, an unusual move for a police department, but understandable in the context of the coming assembly elections.
The FIR said ED officials questioned Suresh on August 13 and 14 last year and allegedly forced to her to give a statement implicating the chief minister. The case has been registered under sections 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) of the Indian Penal Code. A senior ED official, who asked not to be named said the latest move is aimed at intimidating the agency’s officials and that ED will seek legal remedies.
The state’s ruling Left Democratic Front government has maintained that the investigation is coloured by politics, but the main opposition in Kerala, the Congress-led United Democratic Front has said that the police case itself is aimed at diverting attention from burning issues.
The case surfaced in last July after 30kg gold was seized from a consignment sent in diplomatic baggage in UAE consulate in the state capital. Later, several people, including chief minister’s principal secretary M Sivasankar, a senior IAS officer, were arrested for helping the accused; Suresh was labelled the mastermind behind the plan.
Last month, the customs department filed an affidavit in Kerala high court quoting Suresh’s statement under the Section 164 of the Indian penal code in which she alleged that the CM, three of his ministers and Speaker were aware of smuggling activities through the consulate. Later, the state attorney general sent a show-cause notice to the customs commissioner asking why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him.
In November, a video clip purported to be of Swapna Suresh was leaked from the jail where she is housed, in which she alleged that she was under tremendous pressure to take the name of many ministers and the CM. Later, two women police officers who escorted her also claimed that they were witness to ED officials forcing her to name important personalities including the CM.
“I heard a senior ED official named Radhakrishnan promised Swapna Suresh that she would be made an approver in the case if she named the CM. He also forced her to say the money recovered from her locker was handed over to her by Sivasankar,” one of the women civil police officers wrote in a statement to the crime branch. K Radhakrishnan is the ED assistant director in Kochi investigating the case.
But the ED denied these claims.
HT has not independently verified the authenticity of the video.
On March 4, the crime branch sought legal opinion and got the nod to book ED officials. In the First Information Report (FIR), the crime branch said it has clinching evidence against ED officials.
“We will examine our legal options. If needed, we might even go to the court against such a move,” an ED official said, requesting anonymity.
The Congress and the BJP said the move by the state government is aimed at diverting attention and weaken the case. “The ruling CPI(M) is cornered from all sides in smuggling case and Sabarimala issue. The case is a diversionary tactic,” said state Congress chief Mullappally Ramachandran.
“The nervous CM is intimidating officials of the central agencies. It will not work,” said state BJP chief K Surendran.
But CPI(M) state acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan said the state won’t allow free run of the central agencies to discredit the government in the midst of the polls. “We will tell people about their nefarious designs,” he said. Kerala goes to the polls on April 6 and the results will be announced on May 2.