The Customs Department, which is probing the Kerala gold smuggling case, on Friday told the state’s High Court that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, three ministers in his Cabinet and Speaker of the Assembly knew about the illegal activities through the United Arab Emirates consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, the Hindustan Times reported.
Customs and Preventive Commissioner Sumit Kumar informed the court about the involvement of Vijayan and others, citing statements given by prime accused in the case, Swapna Suresh.
“The respondent [Suresh] had clearly stated about the improper and illegal activities of the CM [chief minister], three minister[s] and the Speaker,” an affidavit submitted by Kumar said. “She has also further stated about the involvement and kickbacks received by high-profile persons from various deals.”
The affidavit also mentioned Suresh’s allegation that Vijayan had close connection with the previous Consul General of the United Arab Emirates and that illegal monetary transactions were carried out, PTI reported.
“She has stated with clarity about smuggling of foreign currency at the instance of the Hon’ble chief minister and the Hon’ble Speaker with the help of the Consulate,” the affidavit claimed.
The affidavit was filed in response to a petition filed by the state government challenging certain remarks in the order of the additional chief judicial magistrate (Economic offences) court while providing security to Suresh, currently lodged in the women’s Prison and Correctional Home in Thiruvananthapuram, according to PTI.
Suresh purportedly said that she was aware of these transactions and was a witness to them, being well versed in the Arabic language and had acted as a translator in these deals, The New Indian Express reported, citing her statement, that has been mentioned in the affidavit.
The development assumes greater significance ahead of the Assembly elections in the state on April 6.
Opposition demands Vijayan’s resignation
Congress’ Ramesh Chennithala, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, sought Vijayan’s resignation, suggesting that he had “brought shame” to the state, the Hindustan Times reported. President of the Bharatiya Janata Party state unit, K Surendran also echoed Chennithala’s view.
“The chief minister and his ministers’ involvement is clear now,” he said, according to the Hindustan Times. “Vijayan can’t cling on to power now.”
Meanwhile, the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) has planned marches to the Customs office in main cities of the state on Saturday, against what it called “selective and deliberate attempt of central agencies” to malign the state government.
“Nobody can browbeat us citing the statement of an accused,” KT Jaleel, one of the three ministers who has reportedly been named, told the Hindustan Times. “ 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.”
Gold smuggling case
On July 5, 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.
Officials found that former employees of the consulate – Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair – were involved in the gold smuggling. The customs department arrested Nair on the same day for allegedly facilitating the smuggling of the gold in diplomatic baggage from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai.
The Enforcement Directorate, in its charge sheet filed in October before a special court in Ernakulam district, had named three accused – Suresh, Nair and Saritha PS. In the same month, the ED also arrested suspended Indian Administrative Service officer and Vijayan’s former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar, in relation to the case.