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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

MHA transfers Kerala gold smuggling case to NIA, cites ‘implications for national security’

The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kilogram of smuggled gold from a diplomatic cargo addressed to the UAE Consulate-General Office in Thiruvananthapuram last week.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 11, 2020 8:01:56 am
kerala gold smuggling case, kerala gold smuggling accuse, Swapna Suresh, pinarayi vijayan, gold smuggling in thiruvananthapuram, Kochi: Police personnel produce Sarith, accused in gold smuggling case, at a special court in Kochi, Thursday, July 9, 2020. (PTI Photo)

The Ministry of Home Affairs Thursday transferred the Kerala gold smuggling case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), citing “serious implications for national security”.

The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kilogram of smuggled gold from a diplomatic cargo addressed to the UAE Consulate-General Office in Thiruvananthapuram last Sunday.

Transferring the investigation into the case to the NIA, the Home Ministry said, “the organised smuggling operation may have serious implications for national security.”

The decision comes a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding “an effective and coordinated investigation into the incident by all central agencies”. He wrote, “The scope of the probe should cover all aspects from the source to the end of utilisation. Every link of this crime should be unravelled so that such incidents do not occur.”

On Tuesday, M Sivasankar was removed as the principal secretary to the Kerala Chief Minister, after the senior IAS official was found in the close network of an alleged key player of the smuggling racket, Swapna Suresh, who had earlier worked as executive secretary at the UAE Consulate-General’s office.

kerala gold smuggling case, kerala gold smuggling accuse, Swapna Suresh, pinarayi vijayan, gold smuggling in thiruvananthapuram, M Sivasankar (left) was removed as the principal secretary to the Kerala CM after he was found in the close network of an alleged key player of the smuggling racket, Swapna Suresh.

The case has snowballed into a major political controversy in the state, with opposition parties demanding the resignation of the CM. The Opposition parties claimed that the CM’s Office has links to the racket. Dismissing the allegations, CM Vijayan had said Swapna had been appointed without his knowledge. “I don’t know under which circumstances she was appointed. It was not with my consent,” he said.

Kerala gold smuggling case explained: Diplomatic cargo, an absconding woman and a consulate under scanner

On Sunday, the Customs seized 30 kg of gold at Thiruvananthapuram airport from the diplomatic cargo addressed to a person in the UAE Consulate-General in Thiruvananthapuram. Sarith Kumar, a local resident who had earlier worked with the Consulate-General’s office as a PRO, was arrested. Sarith had told the Customs about the role of Swapna.

Swapna is currently on the run. Earlier today, she filed an application for anticipatory bail before the Kerala High Court. In her petition, she claimed she was being falsely implicated in the case and that she had contacted the Customs officer at the airport on the directions of Rashid Khamis Al Shameli, who holds acting charge of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, regarding the delay in his consignment.

What makes this seizure cling on to the headlines is that the gold was found in diplomatic cargo, which enjoys immunity from routine Customs examination.

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