Kerala minister says he is ready for probe in gold smuggling case
Amid reports that the Union Finance Ministry asked the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe the Kerala Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel’s so-called import of holy books and accepting contribution from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate, the minister said he is ready for any probe.
While investigating the Kerala gold smuggling case in which 30 kg of gold was seized by the customs on July 5 from a diplomatic consignment, probe agencies had stumbled upon another consignment that came to the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram in March weighing more than 4,000 kg.
Later, the minister admitted that 31 consignments of Quran came and he took them to his constituency for distribution. He also said the consular office provided money for food kits to be distributed in his constituency. But the opposition Congress and BJP claimed that some of the boxes carried gold.
“Let any agency probe it. I am least worried because I did not do anything wrong. Among 31 bags that arrived only one bag was opened. Anybody can examine them. I think distributing the Quran is not a big crime either,” he said.
But the opposition said he was dragging in religion to camouflage his alleged wrong doings. Diplomatic experts said religious books can’t be imported like this and he can be booked under the foreign exchange regulations act for receiving funds from a foreign country without permission of the Ministry of External Affairs.
Jaleel came under a cloud after his name figured prominently in the call list of Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the gold smuggling racket. But he insisted he interacted with Suresh as a diplomatic official and did not know about her past or other dealings.
Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency, which is heading the multi-agency probe in the gold smuggling case, told a special court in Kochi that blue corner notices will be issued against four more people staying abroad to unearth a larger conspiracy in the case. It also said during investigation it found that a well organized racket was functioning in the state and it wielded enough influence in high echelons of power.
The NIA had arrested 20 people in connection with the case so far. It told the court that the accused had conspired to damage the monetary stability of the country by destabilising the economy by smuggling large quantities of gold from abroad and it is suspected that they had used the proceeds of smuggling for financing terrorism through various means.