Gold Smuggling Case: Two Kerala Ministers Under Scrutiny For Visiting UAE Consulate Breaching Protocol
Two LDF ministers are under the scanner for visiting the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, breaching protocols.
Two ministers of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala are under the scrutiny of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and other central agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the gold smuggling case.
Local media reports said that the two are under the scanner as the investigation agencies had received details of their visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram breaching protocols.
The Union government has gathered information about the ministers’ visit. One of the key suspects, Swapna Suresh, had provided information to the agencies on these visits.
The ministers reportedly went to the consulate more than three times each on official as well as private visits. One more minister had visited the consulate but to get visa for his son.
The protocol requires ministers to seek the permission from Ministry of Home Affairs to visit embassies and consulates through the protocol division of their respective state Public Administration Department.
The development comes on the heels of the Kerala Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President K Surendran alleging that State Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel has aided the smuggling of gold into the state from the Gulf.
In particular, Jaleel is being questioned on 28 bags being sent to Malappuram district through the Centre for Advanced Printing and Training (CAPT), which functions under the Higher Education Department.
The NIA, which is probing the gold smuggling case, is investigating CAPT officials, though Jaleel has dismissed the allegation saying he had only distributed copy of the holy Quran.
Over Rs 100 Crore Gold Smuggled During November-January
Meanwhile, the NIA told a special court hearing the case that gold worth over Rs 100 crore had been smuggled into the country between November 2019 and January this year by the key accused in the case.
The agency made this statement while opposing the bail plea of Swapna Suresh. The NIA said the main accused and others had operated to raise funds for supporting terrorist activities.
The Kerala gold smuggling case came to light on 5 July after customs officials seized 30 kg of gold from diplomatic baggage at the Thiruvananthapuram airport, following a tip-off.
Investigations in the case have led the officials to as far as the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office with senior IAS official M Sivasankar having made a call to the Customs Department to let off Swapna Suresh. Sivasankar has since been suspended from service.
The case was handed over to the NIA on suspicion that the smuggling operations had terrorist links. One of the arrested is a member of radical Islamist organisation Popular Front of India, who was an accused in a case of chopping the wrist of a professor in Idukki district in 2010.
With the arrest of two more people yesterday (4 August) by the NIA for being involved in gold smuggling, 12 people have so far been arrested in connection with the case.
The revelations in the smuggling case have led to the demand for Vijayan’s resignation by parties led by the Congress and BJP.
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