NIA To Probe Kerala Gold Smuggling Case

NIA To Probe Kerala Gold Smuggling CaseKerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and main accused Swapna Suresh

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday (Jul 9) has requested the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate the Kerala Gold smuggling case given that the “organised smuggling operation may have serious implications for national security.”

A spokesperson of the Ministry of Home Affairs tweeted confirming the development.

In what was widely viewed as a damage control measure, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday (Jul 8) had a written letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his "intervention for an effective investigation" into the seizure of gold worth crores of rupees from a "diplomatic baggage" at Thiruvananthapuram international airport.

The smuggling racket came to light on Sunday (Jul 5) when the Customs department seized 30 kg gold from an air cargo consignment from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the country’s consulate in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram.

Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the attempt to smuggle 30 kg gold via a diplomatic consignment bound to the Thiruvananthapuram office of UAE Consulate General, was working as a consultant to one of the offices under the Kerala government's Information Technology (IT) ministry.

CM Vijayan heads the state’s IT ministry which has been embroiled in several controversies in the past with opposition parties frequently levelling charges of cronyism against the department in award of contracts.

In an attempt to to contain the political fallout of the explosive gold smuggling case, CM Vijayan removed M Sivasankar from the post of secretary to chief minister .

Sivasankar, an influential bureaucrat who enjoys close proximity to CM Vijayan, was however allowed to continue as the secretary of the Electronics and Information Technology department of the state that is directly controlled by CM.

Sivasankar has been accused of facilitating her appointment as operations manager at the Space Park under the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd (KSITI), which is under the IT Department of the state government.

According to a report in local daily Manorama, Sivasankar was confirmed as a frequent visitor to Swapna Suresh’s Thiruvananthapuram flat by the officer-bearers of the residents association of the apartment building.

Call records of Swapna Suresh have also revealed that she was in touch with several leaders of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the state.