Govt tries hard to nail ED officers, 'unwell' Speaker ignores Customs' summons

Govt tries hard to nail ED officers, 'unwell' Speaker ignores Customs' summons

Kochi: A key accused in the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case, Sandeep Nair, has made 'shocking' charges against the officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Kerala government told the High Court on Thursday.

Nair's statement would be submitted to the court in a sealed envelope, the government said.

The State made the submission while the court took up for hearing two ED petitions, seeking the quashing of as many First Information Reports (FIRs) against its officials based on the statements of smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh and Nair.

Both the accused deposed that the ED officials had put pressure on them to implicate top ruling party leaders, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in the smuggling case. The FIRs were registered by the Crime Branch.

High Court judge Justice V G Arun would continue hearing the case on Friday.

Counsel for the government Harish P Raval said the central agencies probing cases registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act have no right to fabricate evidence against people unrelated to the case. If allowed to do so, no citizen would be safe in the country, the senior Advocate said.

Stating that the two FIRs were different, Raval argued that it was wrong in a federal system for the central agency not to have trust in the investigation by a State agency. He requested the court not to intervene since the probe was in its initial stage.

In its counter affidavit, the State termed that the plaintiff, ED Deputy Director P Radhakrishnan, influential and hence the details of Nair's statements could not be made public.

NIA files chargesheet in gold smuggling case; Sandeep Nair turns approver
Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair in NIA custody after they were arrested from Bengaluru on July 11, 2019. File photo: Manorama

Nair's statement was not related to the Central agencies probe. Additional Director General of Police (Crime Branch) S Sreejith submitted that the dates, time and content of the two FIRs were different.

No summons to Customs official

The State government also submitted that the police had not defied the High Court directive against summoning customs officials.

The Central government had accused the State of ignoring the court directive and summoning Customs Assistant Commissioner Lalu to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in Kochi.

The State submitted in its affidavit that a complaint of harassment against Customs officials by its protocol officer M S Harikrishnan was forwarded to the Kochi city police. Harikrishnan complained that the Customs had harassed him during interrogation.

The affidavit said the DCP contacted both the parties on March 27 after his return from a training programme in Kashmir. Police had called Lalu over the phone to check the veracity of the complaint, and the Customs official informed of his inconvenience. The State said no summons or notice was issued to Lalu, and he had not visited the DCP's office. The affidavit also said the official was not interrogated.

Sandeep's bail plea

Meanwhile, the District Principal Sessions Court would consider Sandeep Nair's bail petition in a case charged under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on Tuesday, April 13.

The Crime Branch registered the FIR against ED officials based on Nair's statement in this case.

Fresh notice to Speaker soon

Citing health reasons, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan skipped appearing before the Customs in connection with the dollar smuggling case.

Customs officials, who received an email from the Speaker, said a fresh notice would soon be issued to him.

Khalid Ali Shoukry, former finance head of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, had allegedly smuggled $1.90 lakh to Cairo, Egypt, via Muscat in August 2019. The Speaker was summoned in this case.

It has been alleged that a part of Rs 3.8 crore bribe Unitech Builders had paid for bagging the contract for the Life Mission Project at Wadakkancherry was converted to US dollars and smuggled out of the country.

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