The Customs Department has said that two key accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case have alleged that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was sent money while he was visiting the United Arab Emirates in 2017, through the country’s consular officers in Thiruvananthapuram, The News Minute reported on Wednesday.
In a show-cause notice issued to six people on July 29, the Customs Department cited Sarith PS and Swapna Suresh, both former employees of the UAE consulate, as making the allegations.
While investigating the gold smuggling case in August 2019, the Customs Department found out about the alleged illegal export of $1,90,000 (over Rs 1.41 crore) by the consulate’s former financial head, Khaled Mohamed Al Shoukry.
The show-cause notice has been sent to Shoukry, Suresh, Sarith and three others. They have been asked to reply within a month, The Indian Express reported.
The Customs Department cited Suresh as saying that in 2017, a day after Vijayan went to the UAE on an official visit, his former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar had contacted her saying that a package was delivered to the chief minister.
Suresh contacted the consul general of the UAE in Thiruvanathapuram and made arrangements for transporting it, The News Minute reported, citing the Customs Department. Suresh added that Sarith, who brought the package to the consul general, told her that during X-ray screening he found out that it contained currency notes.
The Customs Department’s show-cause notice cited Sarith corroborating Suresh’s statement. Sarith allegedly put the package in the X-ray machine “out of his curiosity” and “found that the packet contained bundle of currency and some other items”, the Customs Department claimed.
Vijayan’s office, however, dismissed the allegations, The Indian Express reported. “The issue does not require any reaction,” his office said. “It had been debated a lot in the past. The matter is not going to affect us in any manner.”
In the past too, the Customs Department had accused Vijayan of impropriety in the matter. In March, it told the Kerala High Court that Vijayan and three ministers in his previous Cabinet were aware about the illegal activities conducted through the UAE consulate and that they “received kickbacks”.