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Thursday, August 06, 2020

Kerala Gold smuggling case — Accused were in touch with minister, official: call records

According to the Call Detail Record (CDR) shown by TV channels on Tuesday, Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel made several lengthy calls to Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the gold smuggling case which is being probed by NIA and Customs.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: July 15, 2020 11:14:43 am
Second accused Swapna Suresh (left) and fourth accused Sandeep Nair (right) detained by NIA in Bengaluru.

Trouble deepened for the CPI(M)-led government in Kerala after it came to light that Minister K T Jaleel and senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, who was recently removed as principal secretary to the chief minister, had been in touch with the accused in the gold smuggling case.

According to the Call Detail Record (CDR) shown by TV channels on Tuesday, Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel made several lengthy calls to Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the gold smuggling case which is being probed by NIA and Customs. There were several calls between them in May and June. Jaleel’s two personal staff members were also in touch with Suresh, who is the second accused in the smuggling of 30 kg gold from the UAE to Thiruvananthapuram via diplomatic cargo.

Jeleel told the media that he spoke to Suresh only about official matters as per the directive of the Consul-General. “I got a message from the Consul-General saying that Ramzan food kits are ready with them for distribution. He wanted me to get back if I was interested. Subsequently, I was asked to contact Suresh as per the direction from the Consul-General. The conversations were purely official,” he said, adding that he was not aware that Suresh was not a Consulate staffer any more. However, there were several calls between Jaleel and Swapna even after Ramzan.

According to the CDR, Sivasankar was in touch with Sarith P S, the first accused. There were several calls between them, mostly lengthy ones, days before the matter came to light. Sivasankar too called both Suresh and Sarith.

Customs had earlier found that Suresh, Sarith and Sandeep Nair (another accused) frequently gathered at Sivasankar’s apartment in the state capital. The flat near the state secretariat was taken on rent by Sivasankar.

Suresh and Sarith worked with the UAE Consulate as executive secretary and PRO, respectively, until last year. Soon after she lost her job at the Consulate, Suresh was absorbed with an entity under the state IT department allegedly at the behest of Sivasankar, who was IT secretary. Suresh was seen in the power centres here since 2016 even as she faced a criminal case related to forging a false sexual abuse complaint against Air India staff.

Meanwhile, CPI(M) leader and Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan faced flak for having opened a workshop of Sandeep Nair in December. Suresh was also present at the inauguration and was seen with the Speaker. Sreeramakrishnan later told the media that he did not know that Suresh had been removed from the Consulate.

The Speaker had gone for the inauguration following an invitation from Suresh.

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