Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for a “thorough investigation” by central agencies into the controversial gold smuggling case allegedly misusing diplomatic immunity, that has become sensational in the state. “Every link of this crime should be unravelled,” he said. The letter could set in motion a central probe into the case. The letter is also important politically, as Vijayan and his administration are firefighting to come clean on suspected links to the masterbrain behind the smuggling bid, Swapna Suresh, who is now on the run.
The case relates to a failed attempt to smuggle 30kg of gold using the diplomatic baggage system on Sunday. It was the biggest haul by the customs and the first time in the country where the diplomatic immunity for baggages was found to be used to smuggle gold. Swapna Suresh, the prime suspect in the racket, allegedly enjoyed the state government’s patronage. She was working as a temporary consultant to one of the state IT department projects and is suspected to be very close to senior IAS official M. Sivasankar, a secretary to Vijayan and also the state IT secretary. She was terminated from the post after the case grabbed headlines. Shivashankar was removed from his post on Tuesday. Under fire from the opposition parties, Vijayan, who is set to face reelection next year, has welcomed any investigation into the case, or to his office.
“The fact that the attempt to smuggle huge quantity of gold was concealed in diplomatic baggage makes the matter extremely serious,” Vijayan said in the letter. “It is learnt that customs officials are conducting inquiry into the incident. The case has serious implications as this undermines the economy of the Nation. In fact, it has more than one angle warranting a thorough investigation,” he said.
“It is requested that an effective and coordinated investigation into this incident by all central agencies concerned is the need of the hour. The scope of the probe should cover all aspects from the source to the end utilisation. Every link of this crime should be unravelled so that such incidents do not recur,” Vijayan said.
“I assure you that the state government will provide all necessary assistance and support to the agencies involved in the investigation. I request your immediate for an effective and coordinated investigation into this crim,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kerala BJP leader and Union Minister of State for External Affairs Muraleedharan told reporters in Delhi that the Centre views this gold smuggling case very seriously.
“All those involved in this smuggling will be brought to book. Various central agencies are seized of this case and are doing their work. I will not be in a position to say if this agency or that agency is looking into it. What”s most surprising is that Vijayan says the state government has nothing to do with it. He just cannot wash his hands off,” said Muraleedharan.
“It”s most surprising that his own confidant and high ranking IAS official holding the post of his secretary and also heading the IT department had close links with an accused in the case. Yet he says they have no role. You (Vijayan) and your agencies have a very crucial role in probing this and yet you say since the airport comes under the Centre, the state government has no role. Your right hand man is in trouble,” added Muraleedharan.
—with inputs from PTI