Kerala CM and Speaker knew about gold smuggling, HC told
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, three ministers of his LDF (Left Democratic Front) cabinet and the Speaker of the assembly were aware of the gold and dollar smuggling activities routed through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, the customs department told the Kerala High Court on Friday, citing the main accused in the case, Swapna Suresh.
In the affidavit customs commissioner Sumit Kumar said the accused (Suresh) revealed in her statement that the CM and the former consular general had close connections and were part of several illegal monetary transactions. He added that Suresh also claimed that former principal secretary of the CM M Sivasankar, a senior IAS officer, was the main link between politicians, consulate officials and the smuggling syndicate. She further said that since she knew Arabic she was often called to translate their conversations, the affidavit added.
The submission created a stir in the poll-bound state (elections are on April 6), with the chief minister and his CPI(M) dismissing it as a “cheap poll-time gimmick”.
The Congress (it heads the UDF, the LFD’s main rival in the state) and the BJP sought the immediate resignation of the chief minister. “He has no right to continue in power for a minute. He has brought shame to the state,” said opposition leader, the Congress’ Ramesh Chennithala. “The CM and his ministers’ involvement is clear now. Vijayan can’t cling on to power now,” said BJP president K Surendran.
Those named in Suresh’s statement, given last year to a magistrate under Section 164 of the Indian Penal Code, may be asked to explain things by the Enforcement Directorate, which on Friday, filed a fresh application in court seeking copies of the customs department’s affidavit and Suresh’s statement.
Sivasankar has already come under fire for his connections with Suresh, was arrested, and is now out on bail.
“The respondent (Swapan Suresh) clearly stated about the improper and illegal activities of the CM, three ministers and the Speaker. She also further stated about the involvement and kickbacks received by high-profile persons from various deals,” said the customs affidavit.
HT has reviewed a copy of the affidavit. “The role of former principal secretary (M Sivasankar) in acting as the link between the high-profile politicians of Kerala and UAE consulate officials as well as some others in co-ordinating illegal financial dealings under the cover of various activities and projects of the state government was also revealed by her (Suresh),” it said.
“She has stated with clarity about smuggling of foreign currency at the instance of the Chief Minister and Speaker.” .The customs filed this affidavit in response to a petition by the state government challenging certain remarks made by the chief judicial magistrate court (economic offence) in Kochi. Presently lodged in women jail in Thiruvananthapuram, Suresh requested the court last year to provide special security to her in jail and family members outside. A senior official of the customs said the Speaker, P Sivaramakrishnan will be summoned next week for questioning.
The CPI(M) said central agencies are trying to discredit the state government. The party has announced protest rallies outside customs offices at several cities in response. “BJP has unleashed central agencies on Kerala in an effort to torpedo our unprecedented development. The Congress is in cahoots with them. People will not bow down to such anti-Kerala elements,” tweeted the Chief Minister. “It is move to denigrate the state and CM,” said CPI(M) acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan.
The sensational gold smuggling case came to light last July after customs seized 30 kg gold from a consignment that came in the name of an official of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram as diplomatic baggage. Later the case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and at least four other central agencies are part of the probe now. The NIA and other agencies arrested 30 persons in connection with the case including the CM’s former principal secretary, M Sivasankar, and questioned a minister and many others. The central agencies also filed cases related to the smuggling of dollars and other crimes related to the main offence.