Thiruvananthapuram: Gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh told the investigators that Kerala Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan had invited her to his apartment with malicious intent, a charge the CPM leader rejected as political vendetta by the Enforcement Directorate.
The second-phase investigation report submitted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) before the Kerala High Court also contains corruption allegations against key members of the chief minister's team.
Swapna is quoted as saying that C M Raveendran, Puthalath Dinesan and M Sivasankar, the chief minister's principal secretary who lost his job after he was alleged to be close to the accused, had favoured a cooperative society while awarding government works.
Sreeramakrishnan said that central government agencies were cooking up statements to tarnish the Left Democratic Front and its leaders ahead of the elections. He wrote on Facebook that he would counter the allegations in all ways possible.
The report said that Swapna Suresh made the allegations during interrogations in the Attakkulangara jail on December 16, 2020.
Swapna apparently said that the speaker had invited her twice to an apartment near Petta in Thiruvananthapuram and told her that it was his "hideout". He told her that the apartment belonged to him though he was not the legal owner. She also said that the speaker handed over a bag full of cash to be handed over to the UAE consul general.
She said that she refused to go to that apartment alone to collect the money and that prompted the speaker not to involve her in the setting up of the proposed Oman Middle East College the speaker and Sivasankar controlled.
"I went there to meet him along with Sarith (another key accused in the gold smuggling case). However, as I did not agree to his personal interests, the role offered to me in the Middle East college was also dropped," the statement said quoting Swapna.
Swapna, a former employee of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, claimed that the Speaker kept trying to get close to her as he was in need of the help of the Consul General for his personal affairs in UAE.
She made the statement in response to a question whether the Speaker has any investment other than Middle East College in Oman.
The deposition containing Swapna's statement was submitted last week as an additional document as part of the petition filed by the ED in the high court seeking to quash the FIR registered against it by the state police.
The FIR was registered for allegedly forcing Swapna to give statements against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
Sreeramakrishnan hit back with a detailed note on Facebook. "It does not suit a democratic country when the investigation agencies stoop low enough to write any nonsense in the form of 'testimony'. Attempts (by the central government) to divert attention from the smuggling cases that point to its own party, by cooking up 'testimonies' against the government, chief minister and the speaker is unacceptable," he said.
He said that there was a false propaganda campaign with an eye on polls as if those were coming from investigating agencies. He said that the investigating agencies and the opposition had a single agenda in attacking the Life and KIIFB projects that made revolutionary changes in Kerala society.
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Mullappally Ramachandran said the allegations against the speaker were shameful.
Swapna also said that Sivasankar and others in the chief minister's team received bribes for awarding government contracts to the Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society (ULCCS) without inviting tenders. Sivasankar, Raveendran and Dinesan received kickbacks indirectly through their contacts.
Swapna also told her interrogators that she had informed the chief minister that she was resigning from the UAE consulate.
According to the first depositions submitted in the high court by the ED on March 23, both Suresh and Sarith have claimed before the investigating officials that Sreeramakrishnan had made investment in Middle East College in Oman and handed over currency bundles meant for a UAE consulate official.
Meanwhile, Union Minister and BJP leader Smriti Irani, who was campaigning in the Kerala elections, said "the submissions made by the ED are startling."
Noting that the state of Kerala is always known for ensuring dignity of women, Irani asked whether the leadership of the Left parties were in the know of their morally corrupt legislative leader.
Suresh and Sarith, former employees of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, are the key accused in the case relating to the smuggling of 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore in a diplomatic baggage and now under judicial custody since their arrest.
They are also allegedly involved in the dollar case related to alleged smuggling of $1,90,000 (equivalent to Rs 1.30 crore) by a former UAE Consulate official to Muscat in Oman.