Updated: July 8, 2020 9:06:43 pm
With the gold smuggling case snowballing into a major political controversy in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Wednesday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought an effective and coordinated probe into the incident by central agencies. He also assured that the state government will provide all necessary assistance to the agencies involved in the investigation.
“I invite your kind attention to the seizure of about 30 kg of gold by Customs Officials Trivandrum Airport on July 5. The fact that attempt to smuggle huge quantity of gold was concealed in diplomatic baggage makes the matter extremely serious,” CM Vijayan wrote in his letter to PM Modi.
Kerala gold smuggling explained: Diplomatic cargo, an absconding woman and a consulate under scanner
Stating that the case has “serious implications as this undermines the economy of the nation”, CM Vijayan said the case has “more than one angle warranting a thorough investigation”.
“It is requested that an effective and coordinated investigation into this incident by all central agencies concerned is the need of the hour. Every link of this crime should be unravelled so that such incidents do not recur,” CM Vijayan added.
The move came a day after the Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala wrote a letter to PM Modi, seeking a CBI probe into the case. Earlier today, opposition parties in the state demanded the resignation of CM Vijayan over the issue.
A day after a state IT department employee emerged as a key figure in the gold smuggling racket operating through the diplomatic cargo channel, the Kerala government Tuesday removed senior IAS official M Sivasankar as the principal secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after his role in hiring the employee came under the scanner. He has been replaced by IAS officer Mir Muhammad Ali.
The alleged involvement of Swapna Suresh, who had worked as manager with the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITL), has deeply embarrassed the government, with the Opposition parties claiming that the CM’s Office (CMO) has links to the racket.
Dismissing the allegations, Vijayan had said Swapna had been appointed without his knowledge. “I don’t know under which circumstances she was appointed. It was not with my consent,’’ he said.
Sivasankar is also the state IT secretary and the chairman of KSITIL, where Swapna was employed. Following the controversy, the government had terminated her service.
On Sunday, the Customs seized 30 kg of gold, valued at Rs 15 crore, at Thiruvananthapuram airport from a diplomatic cargo addressed to a person in the UAE Consulate-General here. Sarith Kumar, a local resident who had earlier worked with the Consulate-General’s office as a PRO, was arrested. Sarith had told the Customs about the role of Swapna, who had also worked with the Consulate-General office as an executive. Swapna is reportedly absconding. According to the Customs, Sarith, who is no longer associated with the consulate, took advantage of the immunity and privileges enjoyed by diplomatic missions.
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