Gold Smuggling Case: Swapna Suresh Links Kerala CM Pinarayi to Sharjah Ruler
Swapna alleged that the CM and his wife sought the Sharjah ruler's help to set up an IT firm for their daughter.
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The sensational gold smuggling case that had rocked Kerala before the Assembly polls in 2021 has returned to haunt the ruling Left Democratic Front, with Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the case, levelling serious allegations against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his family.
Excerpts from Swapna's affidavit submitted to the Special Court for Prevention of Money Laundering Act cases, which were accessed by The Quint, revealed that Vijayan and his family – wife Kamala and daughter Veena – were directly involved in negotiations with Sharjah ruler, Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasami, in September 2017.
The gold smuggling case came to the fore after 30 kg of gold worth Rs 15 crore was found in diplomatic bags seized at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport by the Customs on 5 July 2020.
Meeting at Cliff House
In her statement, Swapna made a reference to an incident that occurred on 26 September 2017 at the chief minister's official residence, Cliff House, when Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasami visited Kerala.
Swapna alleged that Vijayan had sought help from the ruler to set up an IT company for his daughter in Sharjah. Senior officials, including former bureaucrat Nalini Netto, former Principal Secretary to the Kerala CM, M Sivasankar, and the CM's family were present at the meeting, she claimed.
She supported her allegation by stating that she and then UAE Consul-General to Kerala Jamal Hussain Al Zaabi were invited by Sivasankar to Cliff House to discuss the Sharjah ruler's visit.
She alleged that Kamala had told her she was ready to give gold and diamond jewellery as a reward to the ruler if he helped with the IT firm. Swapna said that "vessels claiming to be filled with biriyani with unusual weight" were regularly taken to Cliff House from the consul-general's house, and transported in the UAE Consulate's vehicles.
It may be mentioned that Vijayan's daughter Veena Thayikkandiyil's Exalogic Solutions Pvt Ltd was linked to the US-based firm Sprinklr. In 2020, the Kerala government was accused of allegedly breaching the privacy of 1.75 lakh people under quarantine in the state by striking a deal with the tech firm to handle the data compiled from them.
Swapna Claims She Told Agencies About the Deal in 2021
Swapna alleged that the consul-general had asked her to coordinate the business proposal made by the CM and Kamala for Veena in Sharjah. She further said that she had already revealed these details and the WhatsApp messages with Sivasankar to the investigating agencies in 2021.
Opposition leader VD Satheesan described her allegations as "serious" and said he didn't trust the central or state agencies investigating the revelations made by Swapna.
"We suspect there is an understanding between the state and Centre to weaken cases. Central agencies did their job as a mere ritual. Even Swapna said she disclosed everything to Customs but they failed to act," he told the media.
CM Met Swapna Suresh at Cliff House for Official Purposes, CMO Clarifies
The Chief Minister's Office (CMO) on Wednesday, 15 June, released a two-year-old video explaining Vijayan's association with Swapna Suresh. The chief minister was seen saying that she had visited his official residence in Thiruvananthapuram several times along with the then UAE consul-general for official purposes.
This statement was in response to a question raised during a press meeting on 13 October 2020 when the case had run into controversy.
"Whenever the Consulate General had made a visit to the Cliff House, she accompanied him as his secretary. There's nothing unnatural for a chief minister to meet a Consulate General," he said in the video.
This reaction comes a day after Swapna told the media that when she was in jail, Vijayan had claimed that he did not know who this "controversial woman" was.
Alleging that he had "lied," Swapna said she had met Vijayan and his family several times at Cliff House.
Ex-Minister Brought In Consignments for Other States Too: Swapna
Swapna Suresh also alleged in her statement that former minister KT Jaleel had brought in various consignments for not just the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram but also for consulates in other states as well through his benami, Madhavan Warrier. Warrier is reportedly the owner of FLY JACK Logistics, Mumbai.
Levelling another serious allegation, Swapna said that in February 2018, the consul-general instructed her to direct Sarith PS, another accused in the case, to clear and collect 570 cartons containing Quran copies from Thiruvananthapuram airport, which came through the diplomatic channel.
A few of them were directed to be kept in the room of the consul-general, which were later transported to the official residence of Jaleel. She claimed that none of them were aware of the contents of the boxes.
It may be noted that Swapna's statement before the magistrate on 6 June provoked Jaleel to file a police complaint against her. Swapna on Monday, 13 June, moved the Kerala High Court to seek orders to quash the conspiracy case filed against her by Jaleel last week.
In an emotional appeal on Tuesday, 14 June, she said,
"I will not back off from my 164 statement. File a case against me, one in every police station in Kerala, no problem. This is a strong decision that I've taken."
A 12-member special team of senior officers from the local police, crime branch, and special branch from across the state will probe the conspiracy and rioting charges registered against Swapna.
Shaj Kiran Quizzed Following Allegations
Meanwhile, Shaj Kiran, whom Swapna Suresh claimed was the emissary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and his friend Ibrahim were interrogated on Wednesday, 15 June, for close to six hours by a police team from Thiruvananthapuram.
Swapna claimed that he was a close aide of the CM and had visited her office in Palakkad on 8 June to speak to her regarding a "settlement" in the case. Swapna even released audio clips on Friday and claimed that the person threatened her with arrest and remand.
Shaj told the media that there was a conspiracy to trap him and that he would share with the investigation team everything he knew about the case.
He alleged that the audio clips released by Swapna were doctored.
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