Thiruvananthapuram: In a major blow to the Left Democratic Front government, the Kerala High Court on Friday quashed the cases filed against the officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) over the allegations of the key accused in the gold-smuggling case.
The HC annulled the First Information Reports (FIRs) filed by the Crime Branch over the claims by accused Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair that they were forced by the ED officials to give statements against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
Both the accused had deposed that the ED officials had put pressure on them to implicate top ruling party leaders, including the CM, in the smuggling case.
The HC asked the Crime Branch to hand over the details regarding the probe so far in a sealed envelop. The court also directed that further action would be taken by the trial court after examining the documents.
In its plea, the ED had alleged that the FIRs were registered against its unnamed officials with the "ulterior motive of derailing the statutory investigation" under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) into a large economic offence of smuggling of huge quantities of gold.
The ED prayed that the FIR be quashed or the probe be transferred from the State police to the CBI to ensure an impartial investigation, "because certain highly placed persons are involved in the case."
Counsel for the State government Harish P Raval had 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 argued.
Stating that the two FIRs were different, Raval had 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 Sandeep Nair’s statements could not be made public.
Nair’s statement was not related to the Central agencies probe, the State contended in its plea.
Additional Director General of Police (Crime Branch) S Sreejith submitted that the dates, time and content of the two FIRs were different.
According to one FIR, the ED officials who questioned Swapna Suresh over the gold smuggling case on August 12 and 13, 2020 had forced her to give false statements against the chief minister in order to implicate him.
The Crime Branch case was registered under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 167 (public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 192 (fabricating false evidence), 195-A (threatening any person to give false evidence), among others, of the Indian Penal Code.
Swapna, a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, is the prime accused in the case relating to the smuggling of 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore in diplomatic baggage and now under judicial custody since her arrest.
late last year in a voice clip purported to be that of her she was heard saying that some ED officials had threatened her while she was being interrogated at the agency office in Kochi in August 2020 to give statements against the CM and some ministers. Later, two women civil police officers, who had been with her when she was questioned by the ED, also reportedly claimed they had heard the ED officials forcing her to name Pinarayi.
Besides the ED, the Customs and the National Investigation Agency are also probing the smuggling of gold through the diplomatic channel.