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Dollar export case: Customs’ showcause notice names Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan

The smuggling case had severely impaired the image of the previous Vijayan regime and had led to suspension of his principal secretary M Sivasankar, a senior IAS official under suspension since then.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvanananthapuram |
Updated: August 11, 2021 5:53:50 pm
Customs had mentioned Vijayan's packet of currency to UAE in the show cause notices issued to the accused persons in the dollar export case, which had taken place in August, 2019. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal/File)

An alleged accused in the case pertaining to the smuggling of gold through diplomatic cargo meant to UAE Consulate here has confessed to the Customs that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had taken a packet containing bundle of currency to UAE during one of his overseas journeys.

The alleged incident had taken place in 2017 during Vijayan’s visit to the UAE.

The statement, that is likely to trigger a political turmoil in the state, was given by Consulate’s former staff P S Sarith, who is one of the accused in the smuggling of 30 kg of gold under the cover of diplomatic cargo to the consulate in July last year. While probing the case, the Customs had come across the illegal export of 1,90,000 US dollars by consulate financial head Khaled Mohamed Al Shoukry.

Customs had mentioned Vijayan’s packet of currency to UAE in the show cause notices issued to the accused persons in the dollar export case, which had taken place in August, 2019. Earlier, CPI (M) leader and former Assembly speaker P Sreeramakrishnan had come under the shadow of an alleged smuggling of foreign currency out of the country.

Sarith, in his statement before the Customs under section 124 of the Customs Act, said that in early 2017, he got a call from the general administration department (of the state government) saying that the Chief Minister had a plan to travel to the UAE. Necessary arrangements for the delegation team of the Chief Minister were coordinated by the Consulate. Swapna, another accused in the smuggling, had sought the contact number of M Sivasankar, then principal secretary to the CM, “so that the rest of the travel plans of the CM and the delegates could be handled by Swapna (then executive secretary at the consulate) and Consul General Jamal Al-Zaabi.

Sarith said that after Vijayan had travelled to UAE, Swapna had called him (Sarith) and told that the Consul General asked her to direct him to collect a packet which the Chief Minister had forgotten to carry along with him. Subsequently, he went to the secretariat and collected a packet from one Harikrishnan, a staff at the general administration department.

“This packet was rectangular in shape and was covered in a thick brown paper. On reaching the Consulate, out of curiosity, he (Sarith) put the packet in the X-ray machine available in the Consulate and found that the packet contained a bundle of currency and some other items. He had confidentially conveyed this to Swapna. As per the directions of Swapna, he had handed over the packet to Ahamed AL Doukhi, the admin Attache at the Consulate, who was travelling to UAE to hand over that packet to the Chief Minister on the directions of the Consul General,” said the show cause notice, quoting Sarith.

He said the Consul General Jamal AL Zaabi had very personal relations with the ministers of Kerala even though he was in charge of all southern states. Al Zaabi had always insisted in inviting ministers for functions in the Consulate and had directed Sarith to take biodata of all the ministers, and to find out the persons who are more influential to the ministers. The Consul General wanted Sarith to maintain good relation with the ministers.

The show cause notice had quoted the statements of Swapna, who told the Customs that Khaled and Jamal Al Zaabi had carried foreign currency many times illegally to UAE. Khaled had confirmed that foreign currency concealed in bags would not be detected by CISF during security checking at the airport.

Earlier, Swapna had given a statement that former assembly speaker P Sreeramakrishnan had smuggled forex.

The smuggling case had severely impaired the image of the previous Vijayan regime and had led to suspension of his principal secretary M Sivasankar, a senior IAS official under suspension since then.

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