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Kerala CM slams union minister amid calls for resignation over smuggling case

Vijayan claimed that Muraleedharan, on multiple occasions, said the baggage seized by the Customs was not a diplomatic one.
PTI | , Thiruvananthapuram
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 01:29 AM IST
"Is there any estimate of how much gold has been smuggled since he (V Muraleedharan) became a minister?” Pinarayi Vijayan asked.(HT File Photo)

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday hit out at Union minister V Muraleedharan over his remarks on the gold smuggling case, alleging that smuggling of gold through diplomatic baggage began after the Bharatiya Janata Party leader from the state took over as Minister of State for External Affairs.

Vijayan claimed that Muraleedharan, on multiple occasions, said the baggage seized by the Customs was not a diplomatic one. “We have heard a Minister of State who is in charge of the Union Ministry of External Affairs. He is said to be in charge of the Middle East. Is there any estimate of how much gold has been smuggled since he became a minister?” “Didn’t the smuggling of gold through the diplomatic channel start after this minister took charge? Does this minister have anything to do with the person who persuaded the accused to say that the smuggling was not in diplomatic baggage?” he asked.

The CPI(M) in Kerala had alleged Muraleedharan had all along been insisting that the bag in which 30 kg of gold was seized by customs officials at the international airport here on July 5 last year was not diplomatic cargo. The CM’s statement came hours after targeting rubbished as “childish” the CPI(M)’s allegation that the BJP was politically using the probe agencies.

Meanwhile, the Customs department has summoned Vinodini Balakrishnan, wife of former Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, to appear before it on March 10. The developments come a day after the Customs claimed that gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh has made “shocking revelations” against Vijayan on dollar ‘smuggling’ involving UAE consulate officials.

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