Kerala minister KT Jaleel to be interrogated again in gold smuggling probe: ED
The ED director said the minister was questioned by the agency twice and he will be summoned again after examining his statements.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday denied reports that the central agency has given a clean chit to Kerala higher education minister K T Jaleel in the gold smuggling case and said he will be questioned again. The clarification from ED director SK Mishra came in the wake of social media reports that he was given a clean chit in the case.
The ED director said the minister was questioned by the agency twice and he will be summoned again after examining his statements. There was a big campaign on social media, mostly by left–supported cyber activists, saying that he was given a clean chit and there won’t be any further questioning in the case. The state is in the midst of an agitation by opposition activists seeking his resignation and many party workers have been injured in baton-charging earlier.
However, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday defended the beleaguered minister again. “A probe agency questioning a minister is nothing unusual. Opposition parties are targeting Jaleel due to political reasons. It is sad a smoke screen is being created over holy books. The BJP may have reasons for it, but it is sad that the Muslim League and Congress are also supporting it,” he said.
The CM dismissed any possibility of the minister’s resignation and dubbed the ongoing agitation a move to destroy the state’s “spirited fight against the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Trouble began for the minister after phone call records of Swapna Suresh, main accused in the gold smuggling case, were leaked to the media. The minister’s phone number figured prominently on the list. Soon after the list came out, the minister said he had called Suresh as a consular employee in connection with Ramadan kits offered by the UAE consulate in the state capital.
But the minister’s clarification invited more trouble for him as he is not supposed to accept any funds or freebies without the consent of the ministry of external affairs and experts said it was a clear violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
During the gold smuggling investigation, the Customs also found that a huge consignment came on March 4 in 31 bags, weighing more than 4,000 kg and they were taken to Malappuram. The minister later admitted that he took these packets to his constituency but said they were religious books.
During investigation, the Customs also found that between 2017 and 2018 about 17,000 kg of dry dates was imported by the consular office. A senior officer said customs will examine details of all imports from October 2016, when the consulate was opened in the state. The smuggling case came to light on July 5 after seizure of 30 kg gold from a diplomatic consignment.