Kochi: Just as the Customs (Preventive) wing was getting ready to question top politicians in the Left Democratic Front government and their kin over a dollar-smuggling case, it has come to light that the primary accused Swapna Suresh was coerced to name Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
According to a statement by policewoman Siji Vijayan, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) tasked with the investigation of the gold smuggling case had forced Swapna to name Pinarayi Vijayan.
Siji Vijayan testified to the special probe team that loaded questions were thrown at Swapna Suresh so that her answer would come out in such a way that could put Vijayan in the spot.
Siji added that she was on personal security duty of Swapna Suresh on the day of questioning by ED.
She also goes on to add that at times the ED officials used to get phone calls and they used to stop the questioning at that time, and it would resume once the call got over.
It is unclear how this revelation will change things. The Customs has mentioned earlier that Swapna's statement was crucial in the dollar-smuggling case. Their next planned move was certainly one with far-reaching political ramifications, especially now that Kerala Assembly Polls is just weeks away.
The top Customs officers had earlier met in Delhi and Kerala to make elaborate arrangements in preparation for this.
Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the related gold smuggling case, had made ‘shocking disclosures’ against Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan and some ministers in the state government over the alleged 'smuggling' of foreign currency, according to an affidavit submitted by the Customs to the High Court last week.
The Customs is of the opinion that those mentioned by Swapna in her statement should be questioned. The sons of two ministers also need to be questioned as per her deposition.
The investigators who are handling the gold and dollar smuggling cases would be jointly grilling them.
The case pertains to the smuggling of $1.90 lakh out of the country by Khalid Ali Shoukri, the former head of the finance department of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. This is alleged to be the kickback received over the Kerala government's Life Mission project won by Unitac Builders and Developers. An NGO based in the UAE had contributed to the project and it is suspected Swapna's intervention proved decisive.
Though Swapna has stated that dollars belonging to the VIPs were smuggled out of the country, there is still no clarity as to why it was smuggled.
Since the dollars were smuggled abroad the possibility of getting any documentary evidence is also remote. Hence the statements of the UAE Consulate's three high-ranking officials who are now in their home countries become decisive. The Customs is resting its hopes on the digital evidence and the statements it hopes to obtain during the questioning to be undertaken in the coming days.
(With inputs from IANS)