With the customs department tightening the noose on the 30 kg gold smuggling case and the former PRO of the UAE consulate at Thiruvananthapuram, Sarith Kumar, under its custody, the issue is taking a new turn with the Opposition coming out against the role played by M Sivasankaran, the private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
In the latest development, leader of opposition and senior Congressman Ramesh Chennithala has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the “misuse of diplomatic immunity of UAE Consulate, Thiruvananthapuram by international gold smuggling cartels with the collusion of officials working for the Kerala government, who have deep-rooted connections with decision-makers at the CMO”.
In the letter dated July 7, Chennithala has urged the PM to initiate CBI inquiry into the gold smuggling case.
“I solicit your immediate intervention to investigate into this nefarious act, which has serious implications on India’s national security and the potential to irreparably damage age-old friendly ties between India and the UAE,” the letter read.
The Congress leader has alleged that the main accused in the case, a woman named Swapna Suresh — former Operations Manager with Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd — was appointed by the state government, disregarding reports of intelligence against her and a probe against her by the Crime Branch of Kerala Police.
He further said that the UAE government has “condemned the misuse of diplomatic channels of their consulate” in an official communique and has “unequivocally affirmed that its mission and diplomatic staff have no role in it.”
Chennithala asserted that the issue of misusing diplomatic channels is a violation of the clauses of Geneva Convention of the UN which grants immunity to diplomatic baggage.
CM @vijayanpinarayi may do anything to save his face now. Transfer of his secretary is a diversionary tactic. #PinarayiMustAnswer the deeds of his close associates. Alleged nexus in #goldsmuggling needs CBI inquiry & I wrote to PM @narendramodi asking the same#CorruptLDFGovt pic.twitter.com/9A3q82J7TD
— Ramesh Chennithala (@chennithala) July 7, 2020
On Monday, Chennithala had alleged that the Chief Minister’s office is turning into a hub of criminal activities and demanded a CBI investigation into the same.
“The Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary, AM Sivasankaran, is turning into a major point of all the deals taking place in the state, and the gold smuggling case is of much higher proportion and a CBI investigation is necessary for this case,” Ramesh Chiennithala said.
Meanwhile, BJP state President K Surendran also asked the Chief Minister to reveal the relationship between his principal secretary and the woman involved in the gold smuggling case.
The UAE consulate, however, denied any involvement of its personnel in this issue and said that the person who is in custody was dismissed from the consulate much earlier.
The consulate also said that it is conducting its own investigation into the issue. State Congress chief Mullappally Ramachandran said that the Chief Minister’s office is turning into a mafia den and called upon the Chief Minister to come clean on the allegations.
Meanwhile, an apparently unfazed Chief Minister refuted the allegations against his office in the gold smuggling case. “BJP state president has come out with baseless allegations against my office. The Chief Minister’s office does not promote any illegal activities,” Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Pinarayi Vijayan also feigned ignorance as to how Swapna Suresh, who was allegedly involved in the gold smuggling case, was posted in the government IT department. “I don’t know how she got the job. I will check this and inform,” he said.
On Sunday, the Air Customs attached to the Thiruvananthapuram airport had made a seizure of 30 kg of gold worth Rs 30 crore, that arrived on a cargo flight and was kept in a warehouse in Thiruvananthapuram for release. The baggage had arrived from Dubai and is understood to have been marked to the UAE Consulate which has its office in the heart of the capital.