Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday hit out at Union Minister V Muraleedharan over his remarks on the gold smuggling case, alleging that smuggling of gold through diplomatic baggage began after the BJP leader from the state took over as Minister of State for External Affairs. Vijayan claimed Muraleedharan, on multiple occasions, had said the baggage seized by the Customs was not a diplomatic one.
”We have heard a Minister of State who is in charge of the Union Ministry of External Affairs. He is said to be in charge of the Middle East. Is there any estimate of how much gold has been smuggled since he became a minister?” ”Didn’t the smuggling of gold through the diplomatic channel start after this minister took charge? Does this minister have anything to do with the person who persuaded the accused to say that the smuggling was not in diplomatic baggage?” Vijayan asked at a press conference here. The CPI(M) in Kerala had alleged Muraleedharan had all along been insisting that the bag in which 30 kg of gold was seized by customs officials at the international airport here on July 5 last year was not diplomatic cargo.
Referring to the stand taken by Muraleedharan on the issue of smuggling of gold through diplomatic baggage, Vijayan said ”When the Finance Minister said in Parliament that the gold was smuggled in a diplomatic baggage, why did this Minister of State (Muraleedharan) repeatedly take an opposite view? ”It is the same minister who is now wielding the sword of Customs against the state government,” Vijayan said. The Chief Minister’s statement targeting Muraleedharan came hours after he rubbished as ”childish” the CPI(M)’s allegation that the BJP was politically using the probe agencies.
A day after the Customs, probing the gold smuggling case, claimed key accused Swapna Suresh has made ”shocking revelations” against him, assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan and some ministers on dollar ’smuggling’ involving UAE consulate officials, Vijayan said the agency was trying to ”defame” state cabinet members in connection with the case. The Customs department had on July 5 last year seized gold worth about Rs 15 crore from a ”diplomatic baggage” at and has arrested many people, including Swapna Suresh and Sarith PS, former employees of the UAE Consulate.