Kerala CM Pinarayi, Speaker named in Customs affidavit over dollar smuggling

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan

Kochi: The Customs Department on Friday raised grave allegations against Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and claimed that he had links with the Consul General of UAE in Thiruvananthapuram, who came under scanner in connection with the gold smuggling controversy, Manorama News reported.

According to a copy of an affidavit submitted by the Customs to the Kerala High Court, Swapna Suresh, one of the prime accused in the gold smuggling case, has given a confidential statement to the probe agency claiming the CM had direct contact with the Consul General and had financial dealings with him.

The shocking revelations came a month before the Kerala Legislative Assembly elections and could do serious damage to the Pinarayi-led Left Democratic Front government that eyes at a second term in power.

According to the affidavit, Swapna alleged that three state ministers too had involvement in the dollar smuggling, which was unearthed during the probe into the gold smuggling carried out through diplomatic baggage of the UAE Consulate. The dollar exchanges were done as per the directions of the CMand the Kerala Assembly Speaker and many higher-ups had received kickbacks over the deals, the statement claimed, quoting Swapna.

A multi-agency probe was initiated after the Customs seized 30kg gold from a diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram last year.

A copy of the affidavit submitted by the Customs Department to the Kerala High Court obatained by Mnaorama News.
A copy of the affidavit submitted by the Customs Department to the Kerala High Court obatained by Mnaorama News.

After the Union Home Ministry had directed the National Investigation Agency to take over the probe, Swapna Suresh and another accused Sandeep Nair were arrested from Bengaluru by its sleuths. Senior IAS official M Sivasankar was removed from key posts over his alleged association with the accused in the smuggling case.

Dollar smuggling case

The currency smuggling case pertains to the alleged smuggling of $1.9 lakh by Khalid Ali Shoukri, the former head of the finance section of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.

Sivasankar was named as accused in the foreign currency smuggling case based on the statements of Swapna.

Swapna Suresh and P S Sarith had accompanied Khalid, who allegedly left for Oman with a bag containing the Dollars. They had accompanied him to avoid security checks at the Thiruvananthapuram airport, as per the statements, as they had managed passes for Green Channel facility. Swapna in her statements had also claimed that Khalid had later gone to Cairo in Egypt from Oman.

However, Sivasankar had alleged that he was arraigned as accused in the currency smuggling case to prevent him from getting the bail granted by the courts in the gold smuggling case registered by the Customs and the money-laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Sivasankar had also contended that the statements made by Swapna and Sarith, while in custody in the gold smuggling case, would not stand the scrutiny of law.

The COFEPOSA was invoked against the main accused, other than Sivasankar, and they have been awarded one-year preventive detention.

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