‘Pressure from Vijayan gov’t, fake case’ – why ED wants SC to move gold scam case out of Kerala

New Delhi: Kerala’s “gold smuggling affair”, which caused major political turmoil when the main defendant, Swapna Suresh, pointed the finger at Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and senior officials, has become even more controversial.

The Law Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is investigating the case, has alleged that the Kerala government not only pressured the defendants to withdraw their statements against the CM, but targeted the investigators by filing false records and fabricating evidence.

The central agency took the allegations to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, where it filed a motion to transfer the trial in the Kerala case to Karnataka.

“Prompt judicial intervention is needed to ensure that unlawful attempts to derail proceedings are thwarted,” said the petition, accessed by ThePrint.

The petition lists a number of alleged incidents to support ED’s claim that the Kerala government and police interfered with the investigation and attempted to influence witnesses. “All these facts require the trial to be transferred from the state of Kerala,” he said.

The ED also offered to place in the High Court, under seal, the statement of the key defendant Swapna Prabhu Suresh, which was registered under Article 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc) before a magistrate last month.

Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate in Kerala, claimed that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his family members and senior officials, among others, were involved in the so-called gold smuggling racket. , which came to light in 2020 after 30 kg of gold was discovered in diplomatic luggage, allegedly smuggled into India from Dubai.

Vijayan denied Suresh’s allegations and last month called them a “deluge of lies” against the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government. Responding to a question from the opposition in the assembly on June 27, he also denied one of Suresh’s allegations that luggage containing banknotes was sent to him during his stay in Dubai in 2016.

One of the senior officials whom Suresh has brought charges against is Mr Sivasankar, who served as Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Kerala. He was arrested in October 2020 and named as a defendant in the case.

He was released on bail by the Kerala High Court on January 25, 2021 and has continued to maintain his innocence. Earlier this year, he even published a book in which he alleged that investigative agencies were under pressure to implicate the CM.

In its transfer request, the ED claimed that Sivasankar was using the state apparatus to create false evidence against the agency and its officers to protect certain “powerful people” in the state government.

The case has caused major political controversy in Kerala, with the opposition calling for a CBI investigation. At the state assembly on Thursday, the CM rejected that request and also denied ED allegations that the state government was trying to obstruct the investigation.

Read also: How Gold Scam Swapna Suresh Became Kerala’s New Villain

How it all began

On July 5, 2020, customs officers at Thiruvananthapuram airport seized a diplomatic cargo bound for the UAE consulate office and discovered 30 kg of gold worth almost Rs 15 crore.

The Cochin Customs Commission registered an FIR against Sarith PS, a former public relations officer at the UAE Consulate, and Swapna Suresh, the former secretary to the UAE Consul General.

The case has created a waver amid allegations that Swapna, Sarith and another alleged accomplice called Sandeep Nair used diplomatic connections to smuggle gold (diplomatic cargo is generally exempt from customs checks) and that high officials and politicians would have been the beneficiaries of the racketeering.

“This seizure was just the tip of the iceberg and there were 21 such gold consignments that were smuggled into India, amounting to over Rs 80 crores,” the petition notes. A case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) was filed and a prosecution complaint was filed in the Ernakulum Special Court against the three.

An additional complaint was filed on December 24, 2020 against Sivasankar, who was described as a “powerful senior IAS officer” by the ED in his transfer request.

Allegations of “pressure”

ED’s motion to transfer the case due to undue pressure hinges on a variety of events, including a petition for protection filed by Suresh in a trial court in which she claimed she was threatened while in police custody. disclosure of the names of persons in higher authority.

The ED also referred to a petition filed by Nair in the special court on March 5, 2021, more than six months after his release, in which he accused the agency of pressuring him to appoint the CM. The ED questioned Nair’s claims, saying he never made any such claims when he was brought before the magistrates’ court while in custody.

The transfer petition also mentions two FIRs that the ED considers questionable. The first case was filed against ED officials accusing them of pressuring Suresh to appoint Pinarayi Vijayan in the case. It was allegedly recorded at the request of female police officers guarding Suresh when she was in police custody.

In the second FIR, the ED was accused of harassing Nair and coercing him into giving false evidence against the CM. According to ED, both are bogus cases and were quashed by the Kerala High Court on April 16, 2021.

(Editing by Asavari Singh)

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