Kochi: Kerala Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel arrived at the Kochi office of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for questioning on Thursday morning in connection with a case related to the gold smuggling racket operated via diplomatic channels.
The NIA summoned the minister for questioning following a series of charges relating to a gold smuggling racket busted in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5. There were also reports that gold was smuggled through the diplomatic channels under the cover of religious texts.
Jaleel had deposed before the ED about the protocol violation related to receiving the diplomatic parcels containing religious texts. The NIA is examining Jaleel's deposition.
The minister presented himself at the NIA office in the morning, where investigators usually report for work only after 9am, as per his own desire to avoid the glare of the media and the people, according to TV reports.
The media got indications on Wednesday that a VIP would be questioned on Thursday. A senior NIA official also reportedly arrived in Kochi for this purpose.
Mediapersons reached the Kochi office of the NIA after the lawyer of the Enforcement Directorate and other officials visited it on Wednesday night to meet the top official.
But it was unclear who will be questioned and when. Amid such speculations, Jaleel arrived at the NIA office.
He arrived at the office around 6am in a car registered in the name of former Aluva MLA AM Yusuf.
On Wednesday, an NIA team had visited the ED’s office and collected information about KT Jaleel as a prelude to the questioning of the minister on Thursday.
Senior police officials led by DCP Poonkuzhali have also arrived at the NIA office.
The police have set up barricades in anticipation of protest demonstrations by opposition parties against the minister at the location.
The opposition parties have been staging widespread protests demanding the minister's resignation due to the serious nature of charges against him.
Last week, ED had questioned Jaleel in connection with the probe into the diplomatic parcels that arrived in the name of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
Jaleel's intervention to distribute the religious texts that arrived through the Consulate and his communications with Swapna Suresh, an accused in the gold smuggling case, and the Consul General were in violation of a circular issued by the General Administration Department. The circular issued by the protocol section of the General Administration Department warned against such direct transactions.
Jaleel has justified his dealings saying he had spoken to Swapna in her capacity as a Consulate employee. But, Swapna had left the Consulate and she was working in the Space Park under the state government. The minister will, therefore, have to explain what was the purpose of his phone conversations with Swapna.
There are indications that the minister has not followed official procedures in using government facilities to distribute the religious texts that came via the diplomatic channel.
The Enforcement Directorate is now investigating whether the gold that reached Thiruvananthapuram was smuggled to other districts along with the packages containing the religious texts. The minister's questioning was as part of this investigation.