A key suspect in the gold smuggling case in Kerala, Swapna Suresh has moved the state high court for anticipatory bail. Suresh, a former foreign consulate employee, is absconding and the opposition has alleged that she is being protected by the Chief Minister's Office (CMO).
The anticipatory bail plea of the woman employee, on the run since being sacked from contractual service in the state IT department after her name cropped up in the smuggling case, is expected to come up before the high court on Friday.
The woman and an alleged accomplice of her are absconding even as an audio clip in which she purportedly claims innocence surfaced.
The case pertains to Customs officials at the airport coming across 30 kg of gold, worth about Rs 15 core, in diplomatic baggage on July 4. The gold was found in baggage linked to the United Arab Emirates Consulate in the state.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a statement on Thursday handed over the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) citing national security concerns.
In a related legal development, the consulate's another former employee, R Sarith Kumar, who has been arrested in the case, was produced before the economic offences court in Kochi and sent to the customs department custody for further probe.
As a political storm erupted over the case, the opposition Congress and BJPin the state stepped up their attack on Vijayan demanding his resignation and a CBI probe alleging "involvement ofhis office" in the case. Congress at the national level also sought a CBI probe.
The state government has removed senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, who was the secretary to the Chief Minister and the IT Principal secretary, following allegations that he had close links with the woman suspect in the case. The official has gone on a year's leave.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala on Thursday demanded a CBI probe into the gold smuggling case, alleging the incident involves people who have access to the highest echelons of the state and the Central governments.
Responding to the queries from the media on the resignation demand,Vijayan asked the opposition to desist from "cheap tactics" and "imaginative stories".
"Smuggling affects the economy of the nation and the culprits must be brought before the nation. We have offered all assistance to the central agencies if they require any. We need to identify the big fishes behind this criminal act.
"It's the centre to decide the investigating agency. Not the state government and they are doing it already," he said.