The Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday permitted the National Investigation Agency to inquire into the Kerala gold smuggling case, the ministry’s spokesperson said in a tweet. The ministry said it allowed the NIA to investigate the case as the “organised smuggling operation may have serious implications for national security”. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had on Wednesday written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting that central agencies probe the case.
On Wednesday, the Congress unit in Kerala too had written to Modi, requesting an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate.
Customs officials had seized 30 kg of gold from a diplomatic baggage at Thiruvananthapuram airport, bound for the United Arab Emirates consulate in the district, on July 5. 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 absconding. Officials valued the gold at Rs 15 crore.
A political outcry began when allegations surfaced that Vijayan’s Principal Secretary M Sivasankar was allegedly associated with Suresh. The Kerala government removed Sivasankar from his post.
Meanwhile, Suresh’s counsel on Thursday moved the Kerala High Court seeking anticipatory bail for her, the Hindustan Times reported. Suresh also sent a tape to a news channel claiming that there was a “concerted move” to target the Left Front government in the state ahead of Assembly elections in 2021. Suresh also claimed she feared for her life.
Earlier on Thursday, Left Democratic Front convener VS Vijayaraghavan felt the state government was being targeted. “Some people are creating a smoke screen to target the state government,” he said. “We have nothing to hide. The chief minister had sent a letter to the prime minister saying the state is ready for any probe. But it is getting delayed. We suspect delay is aimed at embarrassing the government.”