Gold smuggling case: Pinarayi resolutely distances himself, his office from 'controversial woman'

Gold smuggling case: Pinarayi resolutely distances himself, his office from 'controversial woman'
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday trashed accusations that his office had any links with Swapna Suresh, accused in the smuggling racket whom Pinarayi referred to only as "the controversial woman". Pinarayi even sounded as if he was amused that such a link could be made at all.

"It is true that smuggling has taken place and the Customs has quite brilliantly busted the racket. But how can anyone link the State Government to any of this," he asked.

He said IT Secretary M Sivasankar was asked to step down when there were reports linking him to such a controversial figure. "But it does not mean that a legal charge has suddenly come up against Sivasankar. It is just that it is not right for a man who is linked to such a figure to continue in the Chief Minister's office," the Chief Minister said.

The main accusation was that someone from the Chief Minister's Office had called up Customs officials on behalf of the accused. The Chief Minister said this was rejected by the Customs Department itself. "So the biggest lie has fallen flat," Pinarayi said.

He then asked, with a tinge of sarcasm, whether the diplomatic baggage in which the gold was concealed was meant to be delivered to any State Government agency. "It was addressed to the UAE Consulate, not to the State Government. And it were some people with the UAE Consulate's documents who came to fetch the cargo," he said. "How can the State Government account for such a thing," he added.

The Chief Minister said the IT Department, too, had no direct links with the "controversial woman". "There are various projects under the IT Department. In one of them (Space Park), the controversial woman was given the space selling or marketing responsibility, and that too on a contract basis," he said.

Swapna Suresh was not appointed by the Space Park management directly either. "It was through a placement agency that she was recruited. Such temporary appointments are not unusual. People are recruited through placement agencies in many such projects," the Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister said the people who had recruited her would have considered her past experience. "And in these two jobs, one in the UAE Consulate and the other in Air India SATS Services, how can the State Government have any role," he said.

He then subtly hinted that someone having influence over the Centre could have a role in Swapna's earlier postings. "Now there has to be a clarity on whether she secured these jobs by way of anyone's recommendation," the Chief Minister said.

Moreover, he added that there were no complaints about Swapna having indulged in any corrupt deals while working for the State Government agency.

He also referred to the Crime Branch report that was submitted to he High Court against Swapna Suresh. "It states that action can be taken against her," Pinarayi said and held it as proof that the government had never attempted to protect the accused.

Nonetheless, Pinarayi did not explain how such a person, with a CB report against her, could be appointed to a sensitive post under the IT Department. 

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