Kerala gold smuggling accused had good rapport with CM’s office: NIA
The Assistant Solicitor General said investigation so far showed Sivasankar did not interfere in the release of the consignment when Customs blocked it due to suspicion despite repeated pleas from Swapna Suresh.Updated: Aug 06, 2020 16:20 IST
In a new development in the sensational gold smuggling case the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday told a special court in Kochi that prime accused in the case Swapna Suresh had a strong connection with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office.
Assistant Solicitor General P Vijaykumar informed this in the NIA court in Kochi while opposing the bail plea of Swapna Suresh. He said she had established a good rapport with the CM’s office through suspended senior bureaucrat M Sivasankar with whom she enjoyed a good rapport and he had helped her get good postings.
However, the Assistant Solicitor General said investigation so far showed Sivasankar did not interfere in the release of the consignment when Customs blocked it due to some suspicion despite repeated pleas from Suresh. The case came to light on July 5 after 30 kg of gold was seized from the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
P Sarith, a former employee of the consulate who came to receive the consignment, was arrested by the Customs immediately and two other accused Suresh and her accomplice Sandip Nair were arrested from their hideout in Bengaluru five days later. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s principal secretary M Sivasankar, a senior IAS officer, was later suspended after his alleged links with Suresh surfaced.
Though Sivasankar’s alleged ties with Suresh were doing the rounds for some time this is the first time the NIA has come on record about this. Similarly her ‘close links’ with the CM’s office is also coming out for the first time. Due to this proximity, Sivasankar had gone out of his way to appoint Suresh in a key post in the Space Park controlled by the state government, the counsel told the court.
But Suresh’s counsel Joe Paul said she was made a victim in the tug of war between the Centre and state governments. He said a month after the investigation began, the NIA had failed to produce any fresh evidence against the accused. The court later observed it will decide the bail plea on Monday.
Earlier the court had asked the NIA how provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) can be invoked against the accused. But it said a good portion of the proceeds from the smuggling were diverted to fund anti-national activities. It also said after preliminary investigation it found one of the accused K T Ramees, who is under NIA custody now, was in touch with some fundamentalist organizations. He also undertook many foreign trips, including to Africa and he was suspected to be a part of an international smuggling and drug racket, the NIA said.
When Suresh’s two bank lockers were opened by the probe team ten days back it reportedly found Rs one crore in cash and two kg of gold. These lockers were in the joint name of Suresh and a chartered accountant. The latter reportedly told the team that he was allegedly asked by Sivasankar to help Suresh to open lockers three years ago.
After the NIA affidavit came out, the opposition Congress and BJP stepped up pressure seeking the resignation of the CM. “The CM can’t get away by sacrificing his secretary. He should resign at least now,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. The CM is expected to comment during the daily press briefing later in the evening.