Three more persons were arrested by the customs department in connection with the Kerala gold smuggling controversy. They were allegedly involved in delivering the gold to traders.
Jalal, a native of Ernakulam, Muhammad Shafi and Hamjad Ali from Malappuram were taken into custody on Tuesday.
The NIA had on 10 July registered an FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act naming Sarith, Swapna Suresh, Fazil Fareed and Sandeep Nair. Another person, Rameez from Malappuram had also been taken into judicial custody by the Customs (Preventive) Department.
Jalal, also wanted in another gold smuggling case, has been closely linked with Rameez.
The controversy came to light on 5 July, when customs officials at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport in Kerala seized around 30 kilograms of gold, worth Rs 13.5 crore from an air cargo addressed to the United Arab Emirates Consulate. The smuggling racket has turned into a political controversy.
Principal Secretary to Kerala CM Questioned for Hours
On Tuesday, M Sivasankar, the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, was interrogated at the Customs House in connection with the case. He had apparently arrived at the office at 5.30 pm and was there until the wee hours of the day.
The I-T portfolio is being handled by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan which has pushed several Opposition parties to allege that his office had a role to play.
Swapna Suresh, identified as a key conspirator in the case, was working with Pricewaterhouse Coopers company, on the Space Project with Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL). M Sivasankar is also the chairman of (KSITL), which falls under the IT department of the state.
The chief minister has denied the allegations, saying that Suresh was appointed to KSITL without his knowledge. He has also stated that an inquiry will be held into the complaint on the alleged fake degree certificate submitted by Swapna.
Opposition parties in Kerala have alleged that the accused was helped by the state police and has even demanded inquiry into the alleged calls made from the chief minister’s office.
Call Records Show Sivasankar Interacted with the Accused
Call records published by Malayalam channels show that calls were made from the main accused Sarith Kumar’s phone to Sivasankar several times in the past few weeks.
As per the document, around four calls were made from Sarith’s phone to Sivasankar and he had answered these calls, cited local reports.
According to media reports, phone call records show that Swapna, Sarith and the UAE Consulate officer were in touch with each other.
The state is going for polls in 2021 and this might not be good news for the ruling party.
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