Kerala Gold Smuggling Case: What’s Behind Fresh Controversies After Long Hiatus?
Thiruvananthapuram: Political allegations and drama around Kerala’s gold smuggling case have resurfaced after a long interval, with
Swapna Suresh, one of the accused in the case recently alleging that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his family members had links to the case.
On June 6, Swapna linked the chief minister, his family and former minister KT Jaleel along with IAS officers to the case of smuggling gold through diplomatic channels in a statement before a magistrate in Ernakulam under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)
Dragging the Vijayan’s family into the controversy, Suresh had alleged that the chief minister had requested a Gulf nation’s monarch to allow his daughter Veena Vijayan to start an IT firm in that country during an interaction at Cliff House, the CM’s official residence. According to Suresh, who was the UAE Consul General's executive secretary in Thiruvananthapuram, the proposal did not materialise after the monarch allegedly raised questions about a possible conflict of interest.
Furthermore, she alleged that the Chief Minister's Office misused the consulate's diplomatic channel to "illegally import" gold concealed in "brass biryani vessels" at Cliff House.
She also said that Shaj Kiran, a former journalist, had met her with a claim that he could mediate with the chief minister to settle the issue. But after she released the audio clip of their conversation, it turned out the claims made by Shaj Kiran were exaggerated and unbelievable. The Believers’ Church had approached the court against Shaj Kiran and Swapna Suresh, as the church’s name was also dragged in the conversations.
However, the Chief Minister’s Office has rebutted all these allegations. Earlier, Swapna Suresh had claimed that the ‘CM lied’ by denying his official acquaintance with her. Whereas, the CMO on Wednesday released a two-year-old video of Pinarayi Vijayan’s press briefings explaining his acquaintance with the controversial woman. Back then, Vijayan had said that he knew Swapna Suresh as the secretary to the Consul General of United Arab Emirates in the state, in her official capacity. He also said that she had visited his official residence several times accompanying the Consul General, mostly for inviting him to some functions at the Consulate.
“There was nothing unusual about meeting the Consul General and his secretary, who had visited my office several times,” he had said in a press briefing in 2020.
But Opposition parties are recharged after Suresh’s 164-page statement, naming the Kerala CM, was made public before the media. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Bharatiya Janata Party started widespread anti-government agitations, including violent protests in the state, demanding the chief minister’s resignation. There was also an attempt to manhandle the Kerala CM in an aircraft, when he was flying from Kannur to Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. The attempt was made after Vijayan exited the aircraft after it landed at Thiruvananthapuram airport. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) convener E.P. Jayarajan, who was accompanying the chief minister, stopped the manhandlers. Three Youth Congress men were arrested in connection with the incident, and a special investigation team was appointed for investigation.
Left leaders, including Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, have alleged a conspiracy behind the fresh controversies in the gold smuggling case that surfaced after a long interval. Yechury alleged that the new allegations and the protests that followed were a “stage-managed” show by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. The Central government is abusing the central agencies to unsettle non-BJP governments, he added.
“It is a non-issue, already investigated by various central agencies. The Sangh Parivar forces have been trying to use all means to destabilise the LDF government. They had failed in their earlier attempts and will fail in the current edition too” Yechury told media during his visit to Kerala. He said the UDF’s stand of welcoming central agencies in Kerala was deplorable.
In February, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-linked NGO Highrange Rural Development Society (HRDS) had hired Swapna Suresh and Sarith- two of the prime accused in the case. Swapna Suresh was handed a top level post of director of Women Empowerment and Corporate Social Responsibility funds.
The HRDS allegedly has links with the Sangh Parivar and BJP. Many members in its board of directors and advisory board are said to be close associates of Sangh Parivar. K G Venugopal, the vice president of the organisation, is an RSS loyalist. The official website of HRDS says: ‘KG got in touch with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh during the early days of his college education, and turned an active Swayamsevak’. The veteran has been a member of the think tank and an active RSS organiser since his college days.
Guru Atma Nambi, president of HRDS and Aji Krishnan, founder and secretary of HRDS, also have close ties with Sangh Parivar and the BJP leadership, it is said. The organisation’s official website also lists several others who have close BJP connections. Headquartered at Chandranagar in Palakkad district, HRDS operates with some financial aid from the Central government, including the Deendayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushal Yojana.
Since the new controversies regarding the gold smuggling case cropped, Swapna Suresh has held several press meets at the HRDS office in Palakkad, to level allegations against the Kerala CM. Krishnan and Venugopal have maintained the organisation will protect Swapna Suresh as their employee. In a response to Manorama News, Krishnan claimed Swapna was a ‘victim’, and confirmed his organisation’s involvement in appointing two security personnel from Delhi for Swapna Suresh. In the same interview, he also confirmed the organisation’s links with RSS.
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