GOLD SMUGGLING … CBI team in Kochi to investigate links to gold smuggling via diplomatic bag at TVM airport

NEWS GOLD CBI

KOCHI/TVM: A CBI team that arrived in Kochi on Wednesday is going into the details of the gold smuggling case at the TVM international airport, holding discussions with senior customs officials. It is learnt that the Prime Minister’s Office is monitoring the progress of the case from New Delhi. Investigations would also cover the alleged link the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office (CMO) maintained with an accused woman in the case.

Pinarayi Vijayan’s stout defence of the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) came in the evening on Tuesday, a day when its chief official, M Shivasankar, was out. He has gone on long leave, apparently on advice from the CM, but the smoke enveloping the CMO is far from clear.

While there are allegations that two calls went from the CMO to the Customs officials after the so-called diplomatic bags from the UAE were seized at the airport, a Customs official came forward to deny this. Opposition leaders suspect that there was some cover-up operation and he made this statement on persuasion from some higher-ups in government here.

Senior official Shivasankar  – who rose in ranks in state government service and then conferred IAS – was among the CM’s most-trusted lieutenants in the Secretariat, who also held charge as IT secretary. He is out from both the post now, after his close and scandalous association with one of the kingpins the gold smuggling case via TVM airport got exposed. This also was a likely reason why the woman, Swapna Suresh, frequented the Secretariat and CMO, it is inferred.

Nothing goes to show yet that Shivsankar is part of the gold smuggling racket. As of now, he is under a shadow over the close personal relationship he maintained with smuggling-accused Swapna Suresh, a divorcee.

CAR DOCTOR

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan also figures prominently among the Swapna Suresh’s links in government. He had been invited for the inauguration of a business unit in TVM by one Sandeep Nair, and the two were seen in pictures as interacting very closely. The unit, at Nedumangad, is CARBON DOCTOR, which does car servicing, including removing carbon particles from the engine, for smooth running of the vehicle. The speaker went there at the invitation of Swapna, it is stated. The Speaker unwittingly called her a “diplomat” in one of the comments he made to the media, which turned out to be sensational. She was a small-time employee on contract basis with the UAE consulate.

There is no hint to police on the whereabouts of Swapna Suresh. She is in hiding, while her associate Sarith is has been remanded to Customs custody for interrogation.

SHARJAH LINK

There are rumours that the origin of the seized 30kg gold came from Sharjah, an emirate in the UAE. The diplomatic bags used for the consignment were not exactly of such a nature. Other players were involved and they used this as a channel for safe conduit of the contraband.

The Sharjah Sultan had been to TVM some time ago, as the guest of the state government, and he had been conferred a doctorate here. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had, during his UAE visit, visited the palace of the Sharjah Ruler. The Sharjah link to the gold smuggling too will be investigated by the central agencies, it is learnt. IHN-NN

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