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Television Journalist in Kerala Questioned Over Alleged Link to Key Accused in Gold Smuggling Case

The journalist had allegedly telephoned Swapna Suresh when the media said the Customs had refused to release the diplomatic cargo, in which smuggled gold was concealed,

The journalist had allegedly telephoned Swapna Suresh when the media said the Customs had refused to release the diplomatic cargo, in which smuggled gold was concealed,

The journalist of a Malayalam TV news channel was grilled based on a statement given by accused Swapna Suresh during her custodial interrogation about her acquaintance with him.

The Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate probing the Kerala gold smuggling case on Thursday interrogated a senior journalist over his alleged link with key accused Swapna Suresh, official sources said.

The journalist of a Malayalam TV news channel was grilled based on a statement given by Suresh during her custodial interrogation about her acquaintance with him, they said. Sources said the journalist had allegedly telephoned Suresh a couple of times when the media started reporting that the Customs had refused to release the diplomatic cargo, in which smuggled gold was concealed, to the UAE consulate authorities in Thiruvananthapuram.

The scribe, who was interrogated for around five hours at the office of the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, has not made any public comments about the development in the case related to smuggling of gold using diplomatic channels. Besides the customs, the case is also being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Official sources said all those who had close association with the accused will be summoned for questioning. Meanwhile, a Special Court for PMLA (the Prevention of Money Laundering Act) cases here has further extended the judicial remand of Suresh and two other accused Sarith PS and Sandeep Nair.

In a report filed in the court seeking extension of judicial remand of the accused, the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday had said Suresh kept the proceeds of the crime in a bank locker jointly opened with a third person as per the instruction of suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar. Earlier, the ED had said when Suresh was questioned, she revealed her "closeness" with Sivasankar, who was removed as the principal secretary to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after his links to the accused in the case surfaced.

"The secretary was fully aware that her integrity is dubious. This is leading to a situation for further questioning of Sivasankar," the agency had said. The ED had recorded formal arrest of the accused Sarith, Suresh and Nair on July 22 while they were in NIA custody.

During the probe into the case, it has come to light that the accused had smuggled gold worth over Rs 100 crore through diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate at Thiruvananthapuram since November last year. The NIA has so far arraigned 25 people as accused in the case and of them 20, including Suresh, Sarith and Sandeep Nair, have been arrested.