Speaker Sreeramakrishnan's aide appears before Customs in dollar smuggling case

Dollar smuggling: Kerala Speaker's aide skips Customs' questioning again, says he's busy
Key accused Swapna Suresh had revealed before the Customs and Enforcement Directorate that Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan (centre) and his office had supported them in the smuggling.

Kochi: Kerala Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan's assistant private secretary K Ayyappan finally appeared before Customs officers on Friday to depose regarding the gold smuggling and US dollar smuggling cases.

The agency had summoned him for questioning on January 5 but he did not comply and responded instead that he was busy owning to the Budget session.

The Kerala Assembly's Secretary replied to the Customs that Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan's staff was protected under Section 165 of the House's rules of business and procedures. The opposition strongly opposed it, claiming that the protection was only for elected members of the Assembly and not the Speaker's staff.

In this context, the Customs again sent a notice at Ayyappan's residential address and asked him to appear for questioning on January 8.

Customs sources said Ayyappan was summoned to cross-examine the evidence it had gathered into the alleged involvement of some powerful persons in connection with the smuggling of dollars.

Gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh and co-accused PS Sarith had deposed before Customs officials that the Speaker was allegedly involved in extending help in dollars' smuggling case.

Since Ayyappan was responsible for maintaining the Speaker's travel diary and preparing his tour programmes, the Customs officials had summoned him to corroborate whether there was any match with dates and periods mentioned by the gold smuggling case accused.

The central agency had earlier issued summons to Ayyappan at his official address in connection with the probe into the case related to alleged smuggling of USD 1,90,000 (equivalent to Rs 1.30 crore) by a former finance head of the UAE Consulate here to Muscat in Oman.

The Speaker had come under criticism from the Opposition for inaugurating the shop of one of the accused in the gold smuggling case, Sandeep Nair, months ago.

Sreeramakrishnan has said he did not think that the central investigating agencies would question him.

"I am fully confident that there was no lapse from my side. So I have no anxiety," he said on Thursday, adding that he would end his political career if it was proved that he had accepted even one rupee as bribe from anyone.

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