The customs department on Friday told the Kerala High Court that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his three ministers and the Speaker knew of the gold smuggling activities that were taking place through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
Quoting Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the case who was arrested by NIA last October, the customs department said, “The respondent (Swapan Suresh) had clearly stated about the improper and illegal activities of the CM, three minister and the Speaker. She has also further stated about the involvement and kickbacks received by high-profile persons from various deals.”
“The role of former principal secretary (M Sivasankar) in acting as the link between the high-profile politicians of Kerala and UAE consulate officials as well as some others in co-ordinating illegal financial dealings under the cover of various activities and projects of the state government was also revealed by her,” said the affidavit submitted by the Customs and Preventive Commissioner Sumit Kumar in the high court.
However, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, said it has not found any evidence to suggest Vijayan’s involvement.
“At least in our examination, no such thing has come forth. Swapna Suresh has not made any such claim to us. But we cannot comment on any other agency’s probe,” the Indian Express quoted sources as saying.
In its charge sheet filed last month, the NIA made no mention of any political patronage to Swapna Suresh or the other accused. The 38-page chargesheet seen by News18 did not mention former principal secretary to Chief Minister, K Shivashankar, either.
The possible involvement of high-ranking politicians with Swapna Suresh has lead to a high-decibel political debate in Kerala justa month before assembly elections in the state. NIA officials said the investigation has not been completed yet and a supplementary chargesheet could be filed.
As per NIA, the conspiracy began in 2016 by then UAE consulate PRO Sarith, Secretary to consular Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair and Ramees K T. NIA says the main accused decided to help Ramees smuggle gold in lieu of $1,000 per kg of gold. This was later hiked to $1,500 per kg.
Explaining the modus operandi, NIA said, “gold purchased in Dubai was converted into shippable formats by concealing the same in various apparatus, packed and brought to cargo terminals and shipped after generating airway bills using forged authorisation letters of diplomats at consulate general of UAE in Thiruvananthapuram.”
Twenty-one people have been chargesheeted so far while nine have been mentioned in column 12 of the chargesheet as the accused against whom “investigation is pending”.