Swapna's 'revelations' kick up political storm, CPM questions Centre's intentions

CM and his IT secretary entwined in yet another scandal
Swapna Suresh (L), a former employee of the UAE Consulate and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (R)

Kochi: Kicking up a political storm in poll bound Kerala, the Customs, probing the gold smuggling case, on Friday claimed prime accused Swapna Suresh has made "shocking revelations" against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan and some ministers on dollar "smuggling" involving UAE consulate officials.

In a statement filed in the Kerala High Court weeks before the assembly elections in the state, the Customs said Swapna made the "revelations" in statements given to the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences) under Section 164 of the CrPC and to the investigating agency under Section 108 of the Customs Act.

Seizing the opportunity, the opposition Congress and BJP raised it as a big political issue in the ongoing election campaign.

The ruling CPM, however, hit out at the BJP-led central government questioning its intentions in the backdrop of the elections.

Swapna had also alleged the chief minister had close connection with the previous Consul General of UAE and gave statements that illegal monetary transactions were carried out.

The dollar case relates to alleged smuggling of USD 1,90,000 (equivalent to Rs 1.30 crore) by a former finance head of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram to Muscat in Oman.

Swapna and Sarith P S, co-accused in the gold smuggling case, are also allegedly involved in the dollar case and were arrested by the Customs.

Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan
Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan

While senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala termed as "shocking" Swapna's "revelations" against Pinarayi and Assembly Speaker Sreeramakrishnan, BJP state president K Surendran said "jail is ensured for Pinarayi..."

Slamming the CM, Chennithala, who is also the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, said he does not have the right to remain in the chief minister's post in view of the revelations.

"Even with this shocking evidence in hand, the probe agencies have put on the backburner the investigation. Who gave instructions to freeze the investigation? The investigation was put on the backburner when it was sure that the probe would reach the chief minister."

Ramesh Chennithala
Ramesh Chennithala

"This seems like part of a ploy by the chief minister and the BJP," Chennithala said.

BJP leader Surendran, who is currently leading the party's "Vijay Yatra", said the revelations against Pinarayi, Sreeramakrishnan and ministers were "very serious" and this has put the government in a deep crisis at the time of polls.

On the other hand, the CPM alleged the statement submitted by the Customs in the high court shows that the BJP is disturbed after knowing that the Left will retain power in the state after the April 6 polls.

K Surendran
K Surendran

"Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Left government have an image of good governance in the Kerala society. This has given jitters to those who rule the Centre and they will go to any extent to fight against the Left."

"The probe agencies have stooped so low that they have become an election tool in the hands of BJP. Don't think that people are fools," the CPM said in a statement.

It said the intention of the central government has become crystal clear with the Customs submitting a 'secret statement', given by one of the accused months ago, just after the election was declared.

Swapna Suresh
Swapna Suresh

"The probe agencies which reached Kerala to probe the gold smuggling case have been unable to find anything related to it. Their attempts to create a smokescreen of allegations were defeated by the people of the state in the recent local body polls," the CPM said.

In her statements, Swapna had also claimed she had close connection with the chief minister and his principal secretary and a personal staff, the Customs statement submitted in the high court said.

Swapna had stated she is aware of all these transactions and was a witness to the same as she is well versed in Arabic language and hence was forced to act as the translator between "the above said persons and persons of Middle East origin in all their crucial interactions," the Customs said.

The agency further submitted that role of M Sivasankar, former principal secretary to the CM, in acting as the link between high profile politicians of Kerala and UAE consulate officials as well as some others, and in coordinating illegal financial dealings under cover of various activities and projects of state government, was also revealed by her.

The statement was filed in response to a plea filed by the state government challenging some remarks in the order of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences) Court while providing security to Swapna, currently lodged in the women's Prison and Correctional Home in Thiruvananthapuram.

Swapna had given a statement to the magistrate alleging that she had been intimidated by some people who were identifiable in prison while she was in judicial custody and warned her of consequences if she reveals the names of high-profile people involved in the smuggling activities.

The Customs said the apprehension raised by Swapna regarding her safety in prison and threat to her life is perfectly justified.

The central agency also submitted that since Suresh being a detenue under the COFEPOSA Act in a proceeding sponsored by the Customs (Preventive), ensuring her safety is in its interest.

So, the Customs is defending the order passed by the court and the observations made for the purpose of passing it, the agency added.

(With inputs from PTI)

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