Centre blamed for transfer of officer probing Kerala gold smuggling case

Sources say his transfer follows findings that the UAE Consulate General’s office had complicity in facilitating gold smuggling through diplomatic links

Gold
Joint Commissioner Aniesh P Rajan received his transfer order on Thursday | Representative Photo: iStock

In yet another dramatic turn, the investigating officer of the Customs department, heading the probe into the gold smuggling case in Kerala, has been transferred “with immediate effect.” Fingers are now being pointed at the BJP and the Centre for the sudden move.

Joint Commissioner Aniesh P Rajan received his transfer order on Thursday (July 30), and was directed to join at Nagpur on or before August 10. According to sources, his transfer follows findings that the UAE Consulate General’s office had complicity in facilitating gold smuggling through diplomatic channels.

The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kg gold from an air cargo consignment that came through a diplomatic channel from the UAE.

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Aniesh had hit the headlines in the early stage of the probe with his response to a question raised by the media regarding the alleged interventions from the CM’s office. On July 7, state BJP president K. Surendran had alleged that someone from the CM’s office had called the Customs department with an intention to subvert the investigation.

Reporters swarmed to his office to get a clarification and surrounded him when he stepped out, the same day. But the officer, in a one-line response, denied the allegations, saying that no one had called from the CM’s office. The political storm raised by the BJP, targeting the CM’s office, suddenly mellowed down due to Aniesh’s clarification.

Related news: NIA lets go Kerala ex-secy for now, finds no proof linking him to gold smuggling

The BJP was furious due to Aniesh’s denial and raised the allegation that he is politically aligned with the Left since he was associated with the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) during his student life. The party, moreover, did not deny that it was unhappy with the officer. “We are critical of his public statement to the media, but we have no role in his transfer,” said VV Rajesh, spokesman of the BJP.

As far as the CPI(M) is concerned, this validates their stand. “In no stage of the investigation, neither the government nor the LDF expressed any reservation, but only welcomed a free and fair investigation into the matter. The government has never expressed any apprehension about the investigating officers. The BJP and the central government are answerable to this sudden transfer of the head of the investigation team which would have had a lethal impact on the investigation,” said MB Rajesh, former Lok Sabha MP and state committee member of the CPI(M). He alleged that the transfer of the investigating officer in the middle of the probe is an attempt to sabotage the whole process.

Related news: ED files money laundering case, joins probe in Kerala gold smuggling case

Aniesh Rajan has an excellent career record and impressive academic score. A 2008 IRS officer, Aniesh has several achievements under his belt during his tenures as Customs joint commissioner, deputy director of central excise intelligence and deputy director of GST intelligence.

Meanwhile, errors in the transfer order (a copy of which has been accessed by The Federal) indicate that it was prepared in a hurry to remove the officer. It refers to him as ‘her’ and ‘she’. “The Officer shall be relieved immediately and must join at her new place of posting on or before 10.08.2020. No representation whatsoever shall be entertained before she joins at new place of posting,” the order stated.

“Look, how shabby the order is. It shows someone was in a hurry to remove him from the investigation as quickly as possible,” said MB Rajesh of the CPI(M).

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