Gold smuggling: Kerala government challenges court order quashing FIRs against ED officials
The officials allegedly coerced the prime accused to implicate Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the case.
The Kerala government on Wednesday challenged the High Court’s order quashing two First Information Reports filed against Enforcement Directorate officials in connection with the gold smuggling case, Live Law reported.
The case involves the seizure of gold worth Rs 15 crore from diplomatic baggage in July last year. 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. Two former employees of the consulate – Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair – were found to be involved in the smuggling. The Enforcement Directorate had filed a chargesheet in the case in October.
Suresh and Nair alleged that they were under pressure to implicate Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the case. After their accusations, the Kerala Police had filed the FIRs against unidentified Enforcement Directorate officials in March.
On April 16, a single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court had quashed the FIRs. Justice VG Arun had said that the police should have approached a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court with its complaint against the ED officials, according to The Hindu.
Kerala gold smuggling: High Court quashes two FIRs against Enforcement Directorate officials
In its petition filed before a division bench on Thursday, the Kerala government said the court had in April not considered that the accusations against the officials were substantial, Live Law reported.
“The learned single judge ought to have taken note of the fact that it was the State Crime Branch which was best placed to verify and prove whether such falsification had taken place, through what means and for what purpose,” the government’s petition said.
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate alleged that the FIRs against its officials were filed with “ulterior motives to derail statutory investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act related to the smuggling of large quantities of the gold to the country”. The agency’s Deputy Director P Radhakrishnan had sought the quashing of the FIRs.
The gold smuggling case triggered a political row in Kerala. The Customs Department had told the Kerala High Court in March that Vijayan, three ministers in his Cabinet and the Speaker of the Assembly knew about the illegal activities taking place through the United Arab Emirates consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. Citing the statements of the accused, the officials also claimed that they received kickbacks from various deals.
In October, the Enforcement Directorate had arrested suspended Indian Administrative Service officer and Vijayan’s former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar in connection with the case.