Customs links Kerala CM to gold smuggling; cheap politics: LDF

Sending political temperatures hovering forward of the Assembly elections within the state, the Customs has knowledgeable the Kerala High Court that Swapna Suresh, key accused within the gold smuggling case, “stated with clarity about smuggling of foreign currency at the instance of” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan, and “about the improper and illegal activities of three Ministers of the State Cabinet and the Speaker”.

These claims have been made by Sumit Kumar, Commissioner of Customs (Preventive), Kochi, in an affidavit filed within the High Court Thursday.

On Friday, Customs sources stated Speaker Sreeramakrishnan has been requested to earlier than the Customs on March 12.

The Customs affidavit opposed a petition by the Director General of Prisons and Correctional Services, Kerala, who challenged an order of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court which had directed grant of safety to Swapna in jail.

Swapna had earlier alleged menace to her life, claiming she had been “intimidated” in jail and “warned of dire consequences” if she revealed “names of high-profile persons involved in the smuggling activities”.

Citing Swapna’s statements recorded beneath Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 108 of the Customs Act, the Customs affidavit said: “She has made shocking revelations about the Chief Minister’s close connections with the previous Consul General of UAE and the illegal monetary transactions carried out. Her close connection with the Chief Minister and his Principal Secretary and a personal staff was also revealed by the lst respondent” – Swapna is the primary respondent within the matter earlier than the High Court.

This is the primary time that Customs has made an allegation towards the Chief Minister, though his former principal secretary M Sivasankar’s alleged function had figured in probes by a number of central businesses inquiring into smuggling and associated instances. The Speaker’s private workers had been questioned by the Customs in January.

In its affidavit, the Customs stated Swapna additionally “stated about the involvement and the kickbacks received by high-profile persons from various deals. The lst Respondent had stated that she is aware of all these transactions and was a witness to the same as she is well versed in Arabic language and hence was forced to act as the translator between the above said persons and persons of Middle East origin in all their crucial interactions”.

“The role of former Principal Secretary in acting as the link between the high-profile politicians of Kerala and the UAE Consulate officials as well as some others and in coordinating the illegal financial dealings under the cover of various activities and projects of the State Government was also revealed by her,” it said.

Underlining that her statements “expose highly illegal, improper and immoral activities by the above said persons who are occupying high offices in the state government”, the Customs stated it was ready to supply copies of the statements “in sealed cover for perusal by this Hon’ble Court at the time of final hearing of the above case or as and when directed by this Hon’ble Court”.

“It may kindly be noticed that most of the facts revealed in the statement are matters which are exclusively within the personal knowledge of the lst respondent and can be tendered as evidence in appropriate proceedings only by her. During the further proceedings in the case or in other proceedings that may arise in future, the disclosures made by the 1st respondent will have serious impact and are likely to cause serious prejudice to the persons above said,” it stated.

“They being high profile politicians and holding high positions in the government are capable of repelling by all means. Therefore, the apprehension of the lst respondent regarding her safety in prison and threat to her life is perfectly justified. She cannot be found fault with for seeking protection as the facts disclosed being highly sensitive,” the affidavit said.

Stating “there is absolutely no justification for the petitioner” – the Director General of Prisons and Correctional Services — “to approach this Hon’ble Court in the above Crl MC challenging an order passed by the jurisdictional court to ensure safety of an accused in judicial custody”, the Customs stated the “approach of the petitioner is disgraceful”. It additionally denied the allegation that when Swapna’s custody “was granted on 25.11.2020, the lst respondent was taken out of the prison by a Superintendent of Customs alone in rented vehicle without any care and protection”.

“Personnel from the CRPF had been providing protection to the Customs team probing the case and to the accused also, while in custody,” the affidavit said.

The Chief Minister and his cupboard colleagues haven’t commented on the Customs’ claims earlier than the High Court.

The CPM state secretariat, in a launch, focused the BJP over the Customs affidavit. “BJP is upset over the image of the Chief Minister and the government. The investigating agencies have stooped to the level of campaign tools. Kerala would give a fitting reply to the challenge thrown by the BJP-Congress combine. The Customs action is a blatant violation of the poll code and a misuse of investigating agencies… Those who are engaged in cheap politics should realise that this is Kerala,” the CPM launch said.

The ruling LDF stated it could take out marches to all Customs workplaces in Kerala on Saturday in protest towards the “political game to defame the Chief Minister and the government”.

The Opposition Congress and BJP, alternatively, sought the resignation of the Chief Minister.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala of Congress stated the Customs had obtained the Section 164 assertion of Swapna two months in the past. “Why did the agency not take any action against the Chief Minister and other ministers? The probe had been frozen following the revelations against the Chief Minister and others. It shows the mutual understanding between CPM and BJP,” he stated.

BJP state president Ok Surendran stated Vijayan ought to step down from workplace. “He cannot escape by raising excuses… the alleged crime is of grave nature,” he stated.

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