Central agencies seek Kerala's help to track accused in gold smuggling case
CM Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking "intervention for an effective investigation" into the matter.
In a latest development in the Kerala gold smuggling case, Central agencies have sought the "assistance" of Kerala police in finding out the whereabouts of an accused who had served as a former employee of the UAE Consulate in the state.
Sources told PTI that central agencies have "written" to the state police seeking its "technical assistance" in tracking down two absconding persons--the former employee, Swapna Suresh and her friend-- who are wanted in connection with the case.
The seizure of 30 kilogram of smuggled gold from a diplomatic cargo addressed to the UAE Consulate-General Office in Thiruvananthapuram last Sunday led to opposition leaders alleging that prominent members of the Chief Minister's office were involved in the crime.
As opposition rallied for the Chief Minister's resignation, CM Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter. In the letter he sought the Centre's "intervention for an effective investigation" into the issue.
"The fact that the attempt to smuggle huge quantity of gold was concealed in diplomatic baggage makes the matter extremely serious. It is learnt that customs officials are conducting inquiry into the incident. The case has serious implications as this undermines the economy of the nation.In fact, it has more than one angle warranting a thorough investigation," Vijayan said.
Wrote to hon'ble @PMOIndia Shri. Narendra Modi ji about the Trivandrum airport gold seizure case. We have requested for an effective and coordinated investigation into this incident by central agencies. Assured that the State Govt will provide all necessary assistance & support. pic.twitter.com/VQsr8abfSC— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) July 8, 2020
Following the furore, on Tuesday, M Sivasankar was removed as the principal secretary to Kerala Chief Minister, after the senior IAS official was found to have ties with Swapna Suresh.
Swapna moved the Kerala High Court seeking anticipatory bail, claiming that she was only involved in carrying out work allocated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Consulate. She reportedly filed an application for bail online, last night.
Swapna had earlier worked as executive secretary at the UAE Consulate-General’s office.
The UAE Embassy, New Delhi: The authorities in the UAE have launched an investigation to find out who sent the cargo containing gold to the address of the UAE consulate.— UAE Embassy-Newdelhi (@UAEembassyIndia) July 7, 2020
Details of the case
According to a report by The Indian Express, the gold, which was part of diplomatic cargo from Dubai, had reached the Thiruvananthapuram international airport last week. The contents of the package were listed as noodles, biscuits, dates and bathroom fittings which were all sent Al Zatar Spices located in Sharjah.
Meanwhile, Sarith Kumar, who had earlier worked as a local PRO at the Thiruvananthapuram Consulate-General office, soon turned up to claim the cargo under the pretext that he was still with the Consulate. The Customs department, which already had inputs about concealment of gold did not release the cargo, but decided to open the consignment in the presence of the officials of the UAE Consulate.
The Customs department had already been informed by the Consulate that Kumar had been removed from office, a year ago.
Following this, Kumar was arrested and it was he who named Swapna to be a part of the scam. Swapna who was serving as the executive secretary at the UAEConsulate up until seven months ago, when into hiding a day before the Customs decided to open the cargo.
In 2016, she joined the UAE Consulate-General Office and her fluency in Arabic, by virtue of having being raised in Dubai came to her advantage. With time she rose in ranks at the office and was even seen interacting with dignitaries.
However, in 2019 she was sacked over a criminal case that she was involved in, at her previous place of employment. Swapna had conspired with another senior executive at the firm to forge a false sexual abuse case against a co-worker.
After she was fired, she was employed as the business development manager with Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL).
Senior IAS officer and IT secretary M Sivasankar was its chairman and it was revealed that it was he who had recommended Swapna's name for the job. Sivasankar who was then Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary recommended her name through transnational consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers
KSITIL officials claimed that Swapna was a graduate and was qualified for the job, but her brother told media that she hadn’t completed the state school board exam.
Meanwhile, Union Minister for state V Muraleedharan cracked down on CM Vijayan saying, “It's the duty of the centre to investigate the smuggling. But the Chief Minister's office must come clean about his close aides having ties with the accused persons. A woman, formerly employed with the IT department, who is also an accused in the matter. She has coordinated and participated in major events organised by the government. How can the chief minister evade the responsibility?" he asked.
He claimed that the state government was trying to protect the accused.
However, Vijayan dismissed all the allegations and said the "controversial woman" was not associated with the Chief Minister's office.