In the latest development in the Kerala Gold Scam Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is seemingly in a rough time, as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned his additional private secretary, C M Raveendran, in connection with its ongoing probe.
ED directed Raveendran to appear at its Kochi office on Friday, with regards to some statements made by former Principal Secretary of CM Vijayan, M Sivasankar. This is the second person in the CMs Office to come under the scanner of investigation agencies probing the controversial case.
Meanwhile, CM Vijayan, extended support to Raveendran, saying that he was not worried about the summons and that the party trusts him. Affirming that Raveendran is known to him and the party, CM said, summoning by a probe agency does not make him a culprit.
Raveendran’s name appeared at many places in the written statements given by suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar in reply in ED’s questions. The probe agency has received more than one statement as evidence indicating that Sivasankar would not take any decision without the knowledge of Raveendran.
On Tuesday, Customs department had arrested Sivasankar, in the high-profile Kerala gold scam. On November 12, the Ernakulam Principal Sessions Court sent M Sivasankar to 14 days judicial custody over money laundering charges.
NIA Conducts Searches in Kerala Gold Smuggling Case pic.twitter.com/EU2CUWdqWv
— NIA India (@NIA_India) November 20, 2020
The suspended IAS officer was previously arrested by the ED on October 28 for being connected with alleged money-laundering involved in the gold smuggling, and has since been in judicial custody. ED believes that several people are involved in the money-laundering trial. At the same time, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has recently raided the residencies of 5 accused in Mallapuram and Kozhikode districts of Kerala.
Background of Kerala Gold Scam case:
Fifteen people have been arrested, including prime suspects Swapna Suresh, Sarith PS and Sandeep Nair, in relation with the seizure of 30 kilograms smuggled gold, estimated at Rs 13.5 crore, illicitly imported from the UAE consulate via diplomatic baggage in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5.
The diplomatic cargo at airports does not undergo routine checkups by Custom officials. However, a hint about smuggled gold concealed in the cargo led the Custom officials to a successful bust.
Sarith PS, former employee at the Consulate General came to claim the cargo, consequently raised suspicions. This incident followed the arrests of Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair. When the investigation proceeded, Sivasankar’s name came under scrutiny, who was the head of the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL), and Kerala CM’s principal secretary.
When the suspicions started growing more assertive, he was suspended from his post. The Customs claimed that they had direct incriminating evidence against Sivasankar over his involvement in the Kerala gold scam case, and thereby, got permission from the court for Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for his arrest.
Oppositions and backslashes:
The Congress-led opposition was quick to attack the State government. The United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Congress moved a no-confidence motion against CM Vijayan government. Congress pressed that NIA should question Mr Vijayan concerning the Kerala Gold Scam, and also demanded the CM should resign from his post on the grounds of accepting moral responsibility for the misconducts of his former principal secretary.
CPI(M) slams Centre for targeting state government:
On the other hand, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has accused the Central probe agencies of targeting the Left Democratic Front (LDF) alliance in State government. The CPI(M) State Secretariat issued a statement slamming the Central agencies, BJP and Congress parties, “It is clear from the response appeared in some media that the ED is part of the criminal conspiracy to overthrow the LDF government. ED is repeating the words of Congress and BJP in connection with the voice message that came out of the accused in the gold smuggling case.”
They have questioned the credibility of the ED, and also claimed that several legal experts had criticised the Central BJP government for seemingly controlling the agency. The party believes that however, the citizens of Kerala would sympathise with the government and recognise the alleged conspirators.
Kerala CM, on November 3, said “central agencies are exceeding their jurisdiction to malign and destabilise an elected state government.”
The future of the Kerala government is yet to be determined based on the on-going parallel investigations by customs, ED, tax department and other central government agencies. However, no substantial evidence is found against CM Vijayan.