Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel, along with the Chief Minister's former secretary M Sivasankar, are among the influential people the accused in the gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh and Sarith, have called. This was revealed in the call lists of the two accused.
Minister K T Jaleel defended this saying that he had contacted Swapna only because he was told so by the UAE Consul General himself. Also, he said the calls were related to the distribution of food packets to the needy. He said the consulate had offered to provide over 10,000 food kits during Ramzan. It is an annual practice, he said.
When it was pointed out that the kits were distributed long after Ramzan, the minister said the COVID-19 outbreak had delayed the preparation of kits.
Intriguingly, the minister contacted Swapna when she was working as operations manager at Space Park. "Till this case came to light, I was under the impression that she was working for the UAE Consulate. Moreover, it was the UAE Consul General who asked me to get in touch with Swapna," the minister said. Jaleel also produced copies of his chats with the UAE Consul general to back his stand.
Nonetheless, the call records also show that a member of his personal staff had talked with Sarith and Swapna thrice on highly suspicious dates: June 24, 25 and July 3. It is said that the smuggled gold in diplomatic bag arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport on June 24.
The minister said he would enquire about it. "The NIA is also probing the issue," he said. The call list shows that yet another of his personal staff had talked to Sarith for 17 seconds.
10 calls in June
In June alone, Swapna spoke with minister Jaleel over phone at least 10 times. Swapna had called the minister only once on June 1. The minister had called her eight times.
On June 1, the call was made at 1.27pm and they spoke for 98 seconds. On June 2, the conversation lasted for 64 seconds in the call made at 4pm. They spoke for 89 seconds at 1.59pm on June 5, and for 105 seconds from 1.09pm on June 8.
On June 16, a call was made at 7.59 pm and it lasted for 79 seconds. They again spoke at 10.13 am on June 23, but the conversation did not last long. Swapna then sent Jaleel an SMS.
They again spoke on June 23 for about 54 seconds at 10.15 am.
On June 24, a call made at 9.50 am lasted 84 seconds. On June 25, they had a lengthy conversation for about 195 seconds in a call made at 10 pm.
On June 26, the call was made at 2.46 pm and they spoke for 83 seconds.
Sarith had called a member of the minister's personal staff once.
The phone records also have details of the calls made by former IT secretary M. Sivasankar to Sarith between April 20 and June 1. They show that the two spoke for about 5 minutes.
On July 3, Sarith called the embassy’s driver and the UAE consul attache. The baggage that was seized at the Trivandrum International Airport was addressed to the attache.