Kerala CM Writes to PM Modi for Probe Into Gold Smuggling Case
As opposition parties attack him for an alleged connection to the case, Vijayan asks PM to order a central probe.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday, 8 July, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking for an “effective and coordinated investigation” into the gold smuggling racket that recently came to light.
The letter by Vijayan, posted on Twitter by ANI, notes that this smuggling attempt is extremely serious, given the attempt to misuse the protection given to diplomatic baggage.
The scandal arose after around 30 kg of gold was seized by customs officials at Thiruvananthapuram from diplomatic baggage, addressed to an official at the UAE consulate in the city. A former employee of the consulate, Sarith Nair, was arrested when he tried to pick up the baggage using a false ID.
During Sarith’s interrogation, he informed the customs officials that another former consulate employee, Swapna Suresh was involved in the smuggling operation. Suresh had recently been appointed as a manager at a Space Park that falls under the Kerala IT Department.
IAS officer M Sivasankar, the state’s IT Secretary who appointed Suresh, was also Secretary of the Chief Minister’s office – he was removed from this latter post on Tuesday, 7 July.
The Kerala CM wrote to PM Modi that the “case has serious implications as this undermines the economy of the Nation.” Arguing that it has more than one angle warranting a detailed investigation, Vijayan requests that central agencies need to conduct an “effective and coordinated investigation” into the incident.
Urging all aspects of the smuggling racket to be probed, from the source of the gold to the end use of it, so that such an incident doesn’t take place again, he assured the Prime Minister that the Kerala government will provide all necessary assistance and support to the central agencies for their investigation.
Oppn’s Claims Against Vijayan
The Congress leader of opposition in the state, Ramesh Chennithala, is reported by the Indian Express to have said the Chief Minister has only done this because “he fears the case will reach him too”. Demanding a CBI probe in the case, Chennithala argued that if a secretary of a minister takes a decision, the minster is responsible for the same.
BJP state president K Surendran dismissed Vijayan’s initial denials of having any knowledge of Suresh and her appointment, noting how this was similar to the solar scandal during the previous Congress-led government, when the then CM Oommen Chandy had said he did not know the main accused.
Surendran also posted a photograph from an event in 2017 where Suresh can be seen standing alongside Vijayan. Supporters of the chief minister have argued that this photograph doesn’t prove the CM knew her, as it was an official event involving the UAE, at a time when Suresh was an employee at its consulate.
Vijayan Refutes Connection to the Case
CM Pinarayi Vijayan has refuted any connection to the case and said he was not aware of the circumstances of Suresh’s appointment. As the opposition attacks on him mounted, the CM put out further statements on the evening of Tuesday, 7 July (as reported by ANI), in which he argued:
- There was no connection between the gold and the Kerala government. The baggage was not addressed to any state government agency, but for someone in the UAE Consulate.
- All airports in the country fall under the authority of the central government, with all facilities provided by them. State governments can do nothing about airports, which are the total responsibility of the Centre.
- Swapna Suresh is not connected with the Kerala Chief Minister’s Office or the Kerala IT Department. She was “working as a Marketing Manager for a project under IT Department as a contract employee,” the CM claimed, and was selected through a placement agency.
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