Alappuzha: A Keralite businessman has been in the spotlight over alleged links to the accused in the major gold smuggling unearthed by the Customs at the Trivandrum International Airport a fortnight ago. Crucially, his association with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over the years has also spurred wild guesses.
Meanwhile the well-connected Alappuzha native, Kiran Marshall, is trying to put up a brave front even as frantic efforts are being made to distance himself from the row and the accused.
I am not involved in the case and I'm ready to face any investigation, Kiran stated.
"The accused are in the custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The officers would have got all the information. Then why am I being linked to this?" said Kiran, a resident of Pallithode in Alappuzha district.
On Swapna links
Earlier there were reports that Swapna Suresh, a key member of the racket arrested over the case, had took his help as she tried to flee from Thiruvananthapuram as soon the Customs bust came to light.
Claiming that he had no acquaintance with Swapna, Kiran said, "Allegations such as Swapna's voice message was recorded at my house while she was on the run are baseless. I do not know her. No one from the political or ruling leadership has contacted me over the case."
Kiran’s name cropped up in the case after UDF convenor Benny Behanan alleged he had played a role as Swapna and Sandip Nair, another accused arrested, fled to Bengaluru earlier this month.
"Kiran wields considerable influence among the top-notch politicians of the ruling front. His house has been a venue for such high-profile people. A probe will reveal who all had visited his house in the recent past," said Behanan.
The BJP had also questioned Kiran's role in the gold smuggling case.
'Known CM for 18 years'
Kiran conceded that he was acquainted with the leaders from the CPM-led ruling front, LDF.
"I know the Chief Minister for the last 18 years. The CM had food from my house during the Aroor bypoll. There is nothing unusual about it. I am from a pro-Left family. That's how ministers came for the inauguration of the hotel," Kiran explained.
"I had bought the car that was used by Pinarayi during his tenure as the CPM state secretary. But I later gave this car in an exchange offer and got a new one.
Kiran threatened legal action as his name is being dragged into the scandal.
"I did not react to the gold smuggling case until now as my name was not mentioned. I will take legal action against those who pointed a finger at me," he added.
A real estate businessman, Kiran also runs a restaurant at Eramallur. He earlier owned a gold jewellery shop. He is also the secretary of the Alappuzha Rifle Club.
CM's pic deleted
Soon after Kiran's name cropped up, the website of the Alappuzha Rifle Club went defunct.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had inaugurated the club's shooting range at the campus of the St Michael's College, Cherthala. The website contained the photos and details from the inauguration. The club's Facebook page is still live but does not have the photos of the inauguration.
Police officer meets Kiran
Kiran has denied charges that some police officers in the Alappuzha district had been to his house while Swapna Suresh was still at large. However, district police chief P S Sabu said that he had gone to Kiran's house.
"During an inspection of the (COVID-19) containment zones, I had gone along with Cherthala DySP K Subhash and the local CI to Kiran's house," Sabu said.
The DySP has also confirmed this. "We went the day after the roads were closed (on July 6)."
Detailing the incident, the district police chief said, “Though I note down travel details, this visit was not mentioned. Kiran was standing in front of his house and he invited us in. We spent around 10-15 minutes and also had tea. This was around 11.45am. It was not a discreet visit.”
"Kiran is actively involved in COVID-19 preventive measures. He also helps the police. He also distributes articles such as flasks and umbrellas," the senior cop said.
The LDF government in Kerala was cornered over the gold smuggling scandal after Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to the CM, was alleged to have close association with the accused. The Customs had seized 30kg gold from a diplomatic baggage in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5. The Customs also arrested P S Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate, while the NIA arrested Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair from Bengaluru.
Meanwhile, the NIA court on Tuesday extended the custody of Swapna and Sandeep till July 24.