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Kerala gold smuggling case — Accused appointed with knowledge of CM: ED chargesheet

The ED’s submissions were made in a for Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases in Kochi on Tuesday.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | October 8, 2020 12:39:28 am
Key accused Swapna Suresh. (File)

Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold smuggling case, has told the Enforcement Directorate that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan knew about her appointment at the Kerala government’s Space Park in Thiruvananthapuram, the agency has stated in its chargesheet submitted to the court.

The ED also said that Suresh was selected as operations manager at Space Park “as she was close to” M Sivasankar, who was principal secretary to the Chief Minister when the smuggling of gold using diplomatic cargo to the UAE Consulate took place. She met him “five to six times in the presence of the Chief Minister”, the agency said.

The ED’s submissions were made in a for Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases in Kochi on Tuesday.

Submitting the chargesheet against Suresh and her co-accused P S Sarith and Sandeep Nair, the ED has stated that further probe was required against Sivasankar, who was suspended after the matter came to light.

“The role of Sivasankar, who was the key person in the present government, in the entire episode has to be thoroughly investigated and the mirror image of the electronic evidence has to be confronted with him as well as accused persons and others,” the ED submitted.

“Her (Suresh’s) appointment with the Space Park was in the knowledge of the CM of Kerala. She had met Sivasankar around eight times officially but met him many times unofficially. She met Sivasankar five to six times in the presence of the Chief Minister and he knew her as Secretary to Consul-General,” the agency stated.

The ED also said that Sivasankar also knew the co-accused Sarith and Sandeep Nair, and has known Suresh since 2017 and helped her financially several times.

Suresh had joined Space Park in October 2019 after she lost her job as executive secretary at the UAE Consulate. According to the ED, Suresh told the agency that when it came to her appointment, Sivasankar had informed her that he would discuss the matter with the Chief Minister and do the needful. It allegedly was after that assurance from Sivasankar that she got a call from a special officer of the Space Park, asking her to join the entity.

The ED said it found that it was the senior IAS officer who had approached chartered accountant P Venugopal to open a joint bank locker with Suresh, and that this locker was used to store the gold smuggling proceeds. Sivasankar had allegedly been in touch with Venugopal regarding dealing with the funds brought by Suresh. The IAS officer’s WhatsApp chats with Venugopal about the handling of Suresh’s “mysterious funds” have been mentioned by the ED in the chargesheet.

The NIA had seized cash amounting to Rs 64,00,000 and 982.5 gm of gold from one locker and Rs 36,50,000 from another— these have been identified as proceeds of crime. Using the diplomatic cargo route to UAE Consulate, around 166 kg of gold was smuggled in total.

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