Kerala Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel was on Friday questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing alleged money-laundering in connection with the smuggling of gold through diplomatic channels.
“The minister’s statements were recorded. We wanted some information relevant to our probe into the gold smuggling case. His statements are being examined,” ED sources said.
Despite repeated attempts, Jaleel did not comment. However, he wrote in a Facebook post: “Only truth will win. Truth alone. Even if the entire world is opposed, nothing else would happen.”
Meanwhile, the Opposition Congress and BJP intensified their demand for Jaleel’s resignation, with activists of both parties hitting the streets in many parts of Kerala. Jaleel’s name came up in connection with the gold smuggling case following the revelation that he had reportedly been in touch with an accused, Swapna Suresh, during her days as executive secretary of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
The minister and his staff had allegedly been in touch with the diplomatic mission, bypassing the protocol norms.
The Customs probe had found that Jaleel had brought consignments from the UAE through the diplomatic channel over the last year. The minister had said that the consignments were religious texts meant to be distributed in his home district of Malappuram.
ED sources maintained that there was a protocol violation in the minister ferrying in consignments from the UAE. “Even if the consignments were religious texts, a minister cannot do that. We have also doubts about the articles in the consignments. We are trying to find out what came to Kerala through the consignments, brought with the support of officials at the Consulate,” said a source.
The official said the state protocol office was not informed about the deal. “The consignments were first shifted using a Consulate vehicle and the minister had used the official vehicle of the Kerala State Centre for Advanced Printing and Training to be transported to Malappuram. Our probe found that the consignments, claimed as religious texts, have been transported to Karnataka using the state government vehicle,” a source said.
The ED had arrested Swapna Suresh, P S Sarith and Sandeep Nair in connection with the case. Senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, who had been removed as principal secretary to the CM, was also questioned. Jaleel’s questioning came a day after the ED questioned CPI(M) politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh for nearly 10 hours.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said Jaleel should quit immediately if he had any morality left. “CM Pinarayi Vijayan is harbouring a criminal. Jaleel has been repeatedly involved in criminal dealings. How long will the CM protect him?” the Congress leader said.
State BJP president K Surendran said his party would launch an agitation until Jaleel steps down. “It is mysterious why the CM is not asking Jaleel to quit even after the central agency questioned him,” he said.
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