Pinarayi Vijayan, 3 ministers knew of Kerala gold smuggling case, court told
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his three ministers and the Speaker knew of the gold smuggling activities through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, the customs department told the Kerala High Court Friday quoting main accused in the case, Swapna Suresh. The development comes ahead of next month’s assembly elections.
The accused Suresh has 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 in every meeting, the customs added.
“The respondent (Swapan Suresh) had clearly stated about the improper and illegal activities of the CM, three minister and the Speaker. She has also further stated about the involvement and kickbacks received by high-profile persons from various deals,” said the affidavit submitted by the Customs and Preventive Commissioner Sumit Kumar in the high court.
The CPI(M) has planned marches to the customs office in main cities on Saturday against what it called “selective and deliberate attempt of central agencies to portray the state government in a bad light”.
“Nobody can browbeat us citing the statement of an accused. I was questioned several times by different agencies and they failed to produce any evidence against me. These wild charges will also meet the same fate,” said state higher education minister KT Jaleel, one of the three ministers reportedly mentioned by Swapna Suresh.
The copy of the affidavit was later leaked out to the media. “The role of former principal secretary (M Sivasankar) in acting as the kink 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,” the affidavit claimed.
Opposition Congress 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 Ramesh Chennithala.
“The CM and his ministers’ involvement is clear now. Vijayan can’t cling on to power now,” said BJP president K Surendran.
When contacted a government spokesman said he will make a detailed statement in the evening after going through the affidavit. But he said selective leaking of documents was a deliberate attempt to portray the government in bad light during the poll time.
Suresh is presently lodged in district women jail in Thiruvananthapuram. She had earlier approached the court to provide personal security to her in jail and family members outside.
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. 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 had 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 had filed cases for dollar smuggling and other crimes related to the main offence.