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    Gold smuggling racket big test for Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan

    Synopsis

    The row erupted after Thiruvananthapuram’s Air Customs seized a diplomatic bag meant for the UAE consulate on Sunday and found 30 kg gold worth Rs 13.5 crore hidden in pipes, door locks and other items meant for the consulate.

    Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
    New Delhi: The Congress-led UDF and BJP intensified demands for the resignation of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after more details surfaced of alleged links of Swapna Suresh, main accused in a gold smuggling racket, with people close to the CM. Vijayan responded by requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order a coordinated probe of central agencies while assuring the state government’s support.

    “The case has more than one angle, warranting a thorough investigation. It is requested that an effective and coordinated investigation into this incident by all central agencies concerned is the need of the hour,” the CM said in a letter to Modi. Even before the request, officials of customs, I-T, CBI and NIA held several rounds of meetings on Monday to determine the course of the probe. MoS for external affairs V Muraleedharan is believed to have met finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in this regard. “We have Swapna's travel details and who accompanied her, apart from who all she was in touch with. Two of her associates have already been questioned. The concern is to ensure no aspect of national security has been violated. The UAE has launched a separate probe into the matter,” a central official said.

    The row erupted after Thiruvananthapuram’s Air Customs seized a diplomatic bag meant for the UAE consulate on Sunday and found 30 kg gold worth Rs 13.5 crore hidden in pipes, door locks and other items meant for the consulate. Suresh, a former UAE consulate and marketing liaison officer of the state’s Space Park, is the main accused in the case. Following allegations of his link with Suresh, M Sivashankar, principal secretary of IT, a department directly under Vijayan’s supervision, was removed.

    On Wednesday, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala posted on social media a letter, allegedly written by Suresh as operations manager of Space Park, inviting stakeholders for a space conclave in January. “Swapna, accused in many criminal cases, was the operations manager of Space Conclave 2020, conducted by the state government with Isro and mandates the highest level of confidentiality. Her posting at Space Park needs to be probed. The gold smuggling case has international ramifications,” Chennithala said. Another UDF leader, PC Vishnunath, said it was time to “probe all IT projects initiated by the LDF government, particularly e-mobility project whose consultancy was given to PwC and the permission to US-based Sprinklr to collect Covid-19 data. What has happened in gold smuggling case is like what used to happen in Hindi films in the 80s. How can an aide of a CM be friends with a smuggler,” he asked.

    BJP state president K Surendran told ET “there was evidence in public about Swapna's connections with top police officers in the state and how state authorities were not doing anything to probe the matter.” BJP national organising secretary BL Santhosh in a tweet alleged Vijayan was trying to protect the accused.

    Sivashankar whose friendship with Suresh was revealed on Monday was considered close to Vijayan and the man behind smart ration cards and several IT projects.

    With polls slated for May, the case brought back memories of the ‘Solar scam’, where accused Saritha Nair alleged she had links with then CM Oommen Chandy. The unproven allegation is believed to have contributed to UDF's defeat.

    (Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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    5 Comments on this Story

    Aditya Sinha27 days ago
    I wouldn't be surprised if CM is also involved in these were the words of my Keralite friend I asked him about this case.
    Shrinivasa Kamath27 days ago
    Politicians getting involved in smuggling is not a new thing at all. But, why is one case of smuggling pursued so vigorously with a lot of news coverage?
    Gopal Sriniwasan27 days ago
    The deeply entrenched nexus between the Communists, State Police department, Jihadis along with the Mafia Dons involved in Gold Smuggling, Human trafficking and arms smuggling into the state are well known.
    The Kerala CM cannot escape his constitutional responsibility as the appointment of this dubious women to a sensitive post could not have been possible without the CM's knowledge.
    I feel, since the smuggling racket involved a foreign embassy with deep international ramifications, the Mody Government should invoke the emergency provisions of the constitution by dismissing the state government and put the CM under House arrest pending completion of the probe.
    The Economic Times