Déjà vu in Kerala: Gold smuggling scam resurfaces; CPM says political games
After an interval of a few months, Kerala politics seems to be getting muddied again in the ‘gold smuggling scam’. Swapna Suresh, one of the prime accused in the case, has again alleged the involvement of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his wife and daughter in the scam. She did so after submitting a statement before the magistrate court at Ernakulam under section 164 of CrPC.
She lashed out against the Chief Minister, his wife Kamala and daughter Veena alleging they were involved in smuggling dollars to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She alleged that ‘some heavy material’ was transported to the CM’s house (in 2016) covered in a biryani vessel from the residence of the then Consular General of UAE. She also said that the same year she was instructed by M Sivasankar, the former principal secretary of the chief minister, to send an important package to the UAE a day after the CM’s visit to the Emirates. This happened as a bag required by the CM was not taken by him. She said she arranged for the same through diplomats.
Unfounded allegations, says CM
However, the chief minister, in a press note denied all allegations. “This is nothing but an attempt to malign the government by raising unfounded allegations,” said the chief minister.
Interestingly, none of these allegations by Swapna Suresh is new. In a statement given to the Customs in July 2021, she had made these allegations of being instructed by Sivasankar to arrange to send a bag to UAE which was required for the chief minister, who had travelled on the previous day. Though multiple central agencies investigated the case, no breakthrough was achieved. None of the agencies, including the Customs and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), could gather any corroborating evidence on the matter.
The Opposition parties had launched a protest demanding the resignation of the Chief Minister. The Youth Congress organised a protest in front of the secretariat, demanding that Vijayan should step down. However, CPI-M and the LDF launched a strong defence, saying that the state government was being targeted by central agencies and that it was a politically motivated attempt to tarnish the government’s image.
A leaked audio
As far as the CPI-M is concerned, there is a larger conspiracy behind the sudden re-entry of Swapna Suresh. An allegedly leaked audio of a telephone conversation between P C George and Saritha Nair (the accused in the solar scam in 2015) is doing the rounds on social media. In the conversation, George is heard telling Saritha that Swapna Suresh, along with Sarith (the co-accused in the gold smuggling case), came to meet him a few days ago. He claims that Swapna ‘revealed’ to him the involvement of the chief minister and his family members in dollar smuggling. In the leaked audio, Saritha reportedly asked George whether Swapna would disclose these things soon and George replied in the affirmative. The CPI-M says that this phone conversation is an indication of a conspiracy against the chief minister, engineered by his political opponents.
Meanwhile, Swapna on Wednesday told the media that she met George at the instruction of Aji Krishnan, the founder and secretary of the High Range Development Society (HRDS), the NGO where Swapna is currently employed. She also alleged that following her revelations to the media, the co-accused and her colleague Sarith was forcefully taken away from his apartment at Palakkad by someone who claimed to be from the police. Later it was confirmed that he was taken into custody by the vigilance department in connection with the alleged scam in the LIFE Mission project.
The gold smuggling scam was one of the key issues in the Assembly election. However, the LDF came back with a second term, indicating that the people did not take the allegations seriously. The CPI-M and the LDF could manage to convince the people that central agencies were targeting the state government for political reasons.
Swapna’s company raises suspicion
Interestingly, HRDS, where Swapna Suresh recently got a job, is an RSS-backed NGO. She was appointed the CSR director of the HRDS at their office in Idukki’s Thodupuzha. When Swapna appeared before the media on Tuesday, she was accompanied by lawyer Krishna Raj, who is known for his ‘right-wing speeches’ on YouTube and Facebook. Krishna Raj had earlier grabbed media attention for making hate comments against two medical students, Naveen Razakh and Janaki, who had performed a dance, grooving to the famous song ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’.