Swapna Suresh, an accused person in a gold smuggling case, on Wednesday claimed that she has no personal or political reasons in making allegations that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had taken a bag full of currency to the United Arab Emirates in 2016, reported The Indian Express.
The case pertains to seizure of gold worth Rs 15 crore from diplomatic baggage in July 2020. Customs officials had found the gold during the inspection of an air cargo consignment addressed to the Consular General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram.
On Tuesday, Suresh had made the allegations in Kochi after giving a statement to a local court in a money laundering investigation related to the case.
Suresh had also told the media that she had testified against Vijayan’s wife Kamala and daughter Veena, his former principal secretary M Sivasankar, former chief principal secretary Nalini Netto and former minister KT Jaleel for their alleged involvement in the gold smuggling case. Vijayan had refuted the allegations, claiming that it was a “certain agenda” against him.
On Wednesday, Suresh told reporters in another press conference that she made the allegations against Vijayan because there was evidence.
“I don’t have any political or any kind of personal agenda behind giving the statement to the court,” she claimed. “What I stated in the statement as per Section 164 [of the Code of Criminal Procedure], had already been shared with the investigating agencies in the past. I am facing a threat and my present employer is also facing several hardships due to this.”
Suresh claimed that in 2016, Sivasankar had told her that a bag belonging to Vijayan needed to be taken to Dubai. She said that Sivasankar told her the chief minister had forgotten to take the bag.
“When the bag was brought to the consulate [in Thiruvananthapuram], we scanned it and realised that it contained currency,” she claimed. “I cannot reveal everything about my statement before the court.”
Accused man kidnapped, alleges Suresh
Less than an hour after her press conference, Suresh alleged that Sarith PS, the first accused person in the gold smuggling case, had been kidnapped after she spoke to the media, reported The New Indian Express.
When media persons told her that it was the Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau officials who took Sarith into custody, she said that those who took him were in their civil dress.
She alleged that Sarith was not served any notice and was not even allowed to take his mobile phone.
“This is a dirty game,” she said. “Politics is a dirty game. Will the vigilance come and take away Sivashankar in the same manner?”
Sivashankar is also an accused in the Kerala Life Mission case, which pertains to spending foreign funds for purposes it was not meant, according to ANI.
The case was lodged was on the complaint of Congress MLA Anil Akkara to the Central Bureau of Investigation, alleging that various middlemen, including government officials, had received Rs 4.5 crores as commission for the activity.
On Wednesday, Sarith was released about five hours after his arrest. The Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau officials claimed that they had gone to serve a notice to Sarith but he refused to take it. They then took him to their office, where he was served to appear before the agency in the Kerala Life Mission case on June 16.
The gold smuggling case
On July 5, 2020, gold weighing 30 kg concealed in imported plumbing material was seized by the Customs officials upon inspection of an air cargo consignment addressed to the Consular General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram district. Officials valued the gold at Rs 15 crore.
The customs department arrested Sarith on the same day for allegedly facilitating the smuggling of the gold in diplomatic baggage from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai.
Sarith and Suresh worked at the consulate-general’s office until six months ago before the seizure. Later, the state government had appointed Suresh as marketing liaison officer of the Space Park project under the IT Department’s Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited. Her contract was terminated after the allegations surfaced.
Sivasankar was also removed as the principal secretary of Vijayan after Opposition leaders questioned his alleged association with the three accused.
On July 22, 2020, the Enforcement Directorate had filed a money laundering complaint in the case.