Kochi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) asked Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel mostly about his relationship with the accused in the gold smuggling case, especially the details of his communication with Swapna Suresh, during his eight-hour interrogation at the agency’s Kochi office on Thursday.
The minister had, in his statement to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) earlier, said that Swapna had had got in touch with him directly four times for official purposes — during the visit of the ruler of Sharjah to Kerala, for the distribution of Ramzan kits, for handing over religious texts and for expatriate welfare activities during COVID. He had said that all these dealings were as per the instructions of the Consulate authorities.
However, the NIA sought clarification on two other occasions when Swapna had directly requested Jalieel's help. It also inquired about his relationship with the officials at the Consulate and sought clarification on some other statements that he had made to the ED.
The minister spent about 11 hours at the Kochi office of the NIA. He arrived early at 6 am to avoid media and public glare. The process of recording his statement began just after 8 am. After breaking for lunch between 12:30pm and 1:30pm, the interrogation resumed and ended at 4pm. Jaleel returned at five.
The NIA summoned Jaleel as part of the central agency's investigations into the gold smuggling operations that functioned using the diplomatic channel and which was busted at the Trivandrum International Airport on July 5. The racket came to light after Customs officials detained and opened a diplomatic baggage intended for an official at the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. Minister Jaleel had offered his services to distribute the religious text that had arrived through the consulate. Agencies are trying to find out if gold was smuggled to various districts in the state under the cover of the religious texts.
Minister wanted to be questioned at night
The NIA had originally wanted to conduct the interrogation on Friday. Jaleel tried to get it shifted to night on any day. When he was told that was not possible, he enquired about the possibility of conducting the questioning online.
The NIA said that in addition to ASP AP Shoukathali and DySP C Radhakrishna Pillai from the Kochi office, DIG KB Vandana would also participate in the interrogation online and that the technical facility for this was available at the Kochi office. The minister then informed the NIA that he would reach its office at Kochi on Thursday morning.
During the interrogation, at 10:07am, Jaleel sent a WhatsApp message to the media in which he said, “Even if the whole world opposes, the truth will not be untrue. The truth will not be defeated.”
After the questioning, Jaleel said, “I removed a heavy load from my mind. They wanted to record the testimony as per sections 16, 17, 18 of the UAPA. I was lively with my answers. They treated me very politely in a manner that we all should watch and learn. I could help remove the smokescreen on many things. I believe I will not have to appear again before them.”