The Congress in Kerala on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the gold smuggling case, and its alleged link with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s top aide M Sivasankar, The Times of India reported. Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala, in his letter to Modi, also sought a probe by the Enforcement Directorate.
On Sunday, customs officials had seized 30 kg of gold from a diplomatic baggage bound for the United Arab Emirates consulate in Thiruvananthapuram district. Officials found that former employees of the consulate-general, Swapna Suresh and Sarith Nair, were involved in the gold smuggling. Both of them worked at the consulate-general’s office until six months ago.
While Nair is in the custody of the customs department, Suresh is reportedly absconding. Officials valued the gold at Rs 15 crore. Meanwhile, the UAE consulate has denied any knowledge of the smuggling operation and promised to cooperate with the investigation.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Kerala government removed Sivasankar as Vijayan’s principal secretary. This came after Chennithala and Kerala Bharatiya Janata Party President K Surendran questioned Sivasankar’s alleged association with Suresh, the prime accused in the gold smuggling case.
“Media reports of the influence of the smuggling cartel at the Chief Minister’s Office and the nexus between politicians, government officials and the smugglers points to a grave situation warranting an investigation by an agency which has authority and freedom to act impartially,” Chennithala wrote in the letter.
Chennithala told the media that Sivasankar was removed from Vijayan’s office because the chief minister feared that the investigation would reach him. He also said the United Democratic Front demands Vijayan’s resignation, ANI reported. “In the high profile gold smuggling case, CMO got involved to save accused Swapna Suresh,” he alleged. “Chief minister’s principal secretary was asked to step down due to his links with her. Chief minister shared closed relations with her.”
On Wednesday, Chennithala alleged that Vijayan was trying to blame PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the agency that appointed Suresh to the Information Technology department. Vijayan had said on Tuesday night that he was ready for a CBI investigation, the Hindustan Times reported. “She was [Swapna Suresh] hired by a placement agency,” he said. “Customs also made it clear that nobody had called from the chief minister’s office to bail her out. Some people are creating a smoke screen to portray the government in a bad light.”