Kerala Gold Smuggling Case
Gold smuggling is not new to Kerala. Last year more than 550 kg of smuggled gold was reportedly seized in the state, a national record. But the fact that this smuggling racket busted during the Covid-19 pandemic worsens the situation. The Pinarayi Vijayan led state government has been wounded by a high profile multi-crore gold smuggling case that has the Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary involved in it. Due to this, the opposition party has upped the stake against the ruling government asking the Chief Minister to resign taking moral responsibility for the acts of his principal secretary. Recently, the senior Kerala BJP leader Shri O Rajagopal launched a ‘Satyagraha’ for eighteen days demanding the resignation of the current Chief Minister.
On the 5th of July, officials at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport seized a baggage containing 30 kilograms of Gold of value around 15 Crore Indian Rupees. The gold was hidden inside a baggage concealed in bathroom equipment and electronic devices. Moreover, the Customs officials acted based on a specific tip-off by an informer that that baggage was part of a smuggling syndicate that was trying to misuse the name of a person who enjoys diplomatic immunity in the state of Kerala and it was addressed to the UAE Consulate. Meanwhile, investigation into the Kerala gold smuggling case so far has exposed several players who were involved in or are suspected to have played some role in this.
Names involved with the case
Swapna Suresh, a former staffer at the UAE Consulate is the main accused in the case so far. Investigation so far has revealed that she had contacts with powerful people in Kerala and made several calls to them in the run-up to the current case of gold smuggling. Further, her call data records suggest that she has spoken to the UAE consulate general 138 times, PS Sarith (another key accused) 45 times, a diplomatic attaché at the UAE consulate 28 times, besides others.
M Sivasankar was Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s principal secretary and he also headed the IT department under which Swapna Suresh was hired. He was questioned by the customs officials for over nine hours and was suspended and sacked from his post as soon as his name appeared in the investigation.
PS Sarith, a former PRO at the UAE Consulate is currently arrested and in National Investigation Agency’s custody after it was proved from his phone records that he had called M Sivasankar and his accomplice Swapna Suresh several times in the run-up to the gold smuggling.
Sandeep Nair is another key accused in the case and was arrested along with Swapna Suresh from Bangalore after his apartment and baggage was checked for evidence.
Fazil Fareed is a Keralite based in the UAE is a key suspect in the case. Moreover, The NIA has secured a 'blue color' Interpol notice against him. The agency suspects a terror angle to the Kerala gold smuggling case and is probing if the proceeds of the crime were to be used for terror activities. Also, Fareed is suspected to be one of the suppliers of the gold that was caught at the airport.
By: Jaya Anisika S