Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been facing the Opposition’s ire for the high-profile gold smuggling case, but the National Investigation Agency has so far found nothing to suggest his involvement in the Rs 500 crore racket.
Agency officers involved in the probe told News18 that investigators had not come across any evidence to implicate the Kerala chief minister or prove “institutional involvement of the Chief Minister’s Office."
With assembly elections in the state just eight months away, the opposition Congress and BJP have announced a series of protests seeking the resignation of Vijayan, and the NIA’s clarification will come as relief for the under fire CM. While BJP state president K Surendran had observed a one-day fast last week, the Congress-led UDF had brought a no-confidence motion against the government in the assembly that was defeated.
NIA officers told News18 said that Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the case, was the driving force behind the smuggling racket and had managed to infiltrate all quarters from the UAE Consulate in the state to the Chief Minister's Office.
"Swapna Suresh is an extremely street smart person. She is a good talker and has a knack of getting things done. She had struck up a great friendship with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar. But at this stage there is nothing to suggest CM's involvement," the NIA official said.
Sivasankar, a senior IAS officer, was suspended after his alleged links with Suresh had surfaced and Opposition leaders questioned his alleged association with the three accused.
The racket was unearthed om July 5, when gold weighing 30 kg concealed in imported plumbing material was seized by customs officials upon inspection of an air cargo consignment addressed to the Consular General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram district.
Officials valued the gold at Rs 15 crore, but NIA officials said the total worth of the gold smuggling racket could be up to 500 crores. The NIA suspects that Suresh and her associates could have smuggled in gold worth 500 crores in a time span of one and half years.
Officials said that at this stage, the case seems to be that of corruption, but the scale at which the smuggling was happening had the potential to impact India's economy.
"NIA took up this case after analysing the kind of amount involved. At current rate, the smuggling racket is worth more than 500 crores, enough to have a destabilizing effect on the economy," a senior NIA officer said, adding that they are confident of filing the chargesheet in this case within the stipulated 180 days from the date of arrest. Suresh was arrested on July 24.