Heat On Chief Minister's Office In Kerala Gold Smuggling Case: 10 Points

Kerala Gold Smuggling Case: In a series of tweets, the UAE Embassy said that a probe has been launched into the incident.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has denied allegations of his office's links to the case. (File)

Thiruvananthapuram/ New Delhi: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's office has been drawn into a spiraling controversy over a massive gold haul by the customs on July 4. The UAE said it is investigating the gold smuggling case and "the culprits who sought to tarnish the reputation of the UAE mission in India will not be spared". Amid opposition allegations that the Chief Minister's office had tried to shield a woman designated as "person of interest" in the case, a senior IAS officer was removed from the post of principal secretary to Mr Vijayan on Tuesday. M Sivasankar, Pinarayi Vijayan's former aide, was also removed as IT Secretary. Swapna Suresh, a suspect in the case, had "close links" to M Sivasankar, opposition Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala has alleged in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:

  1. Around 30 kg of gold worth Rs 15 crore, which was a part of a diplomatic consignment, was seized by the Customs department on July 4. The consignment had arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. Sarith Kumar, an accused in the case and a former public relations officer (PRO) of the UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram, was remanded for 14 days in the case after he was arrested on Monday.

  2. Sources in the Customs department confirmed on Tuesday that another woman - Swapna Suresh - is also being seen as a "person of interest" and is among those who staked claim over the baggage. She was also a former employee at the UAE Consulate and a marketing officer for one of the firms linked to the Kerala government's Information Technology department. "The contract of the concerned person has been terminated since the serious allegations emerged," sources at the Chief Minister's Office confirmed to NDTV on Monday.

  3. In a series of tweets, the UAE Embassy said that a probe has been launched into the incident. "The authorities in the UAE have launched an investigation to find out who sent the cargo containing gold to the address of the UAE consulate," the UAE Embassy said on Twitter, adding that "the authorities have stressed that the culprits who not only committed a major crime but also sought to tarnish the reputation of the UAE mission in India will not be spared". "We remain committed to cooperating with Indian authorities in getting to the root of the crime," one of the posts read.

  4. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has denied allegations of his office's links to the case amid attacks by the opposition parties and stressed that his government is open to probe by any agency. "How can the Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling case anyway be related to state government? The parcel didn't come to any of the state government agency... it came for UAE Consulate. If there is any failure, how can state government be responsible?" he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI on Tuesday.

  5. Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala has sought a CBI probe in the smuggling case. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, the 64-year-old politician alleged that the "diplomatic immunity to UAE Consulate has been misused".

  6. "The main accused in this smuggling case Ms. Swapna Suresh has been appointed by Government of Kerala, disregarding reports of the state intelligence against her and not withstanding an investigation against her by the Crime Branch of Kerala Police," he claimed in the letter, adding that it "proves her deep-rooted links with the power centres at the office of Chief Minister of Kerala."

  7. BJP state president K Surendran, who was the first to raise this issue, had also linked the Chief Minister's office to the case. "Why were calls made from the CMO to protect this woman? Why was she given a prominent position despite earlier cases against her? If you probe the call records of Kerala CM's IT secretary, you will get the details of the calls mad," K Surendran said. While a Customs official denied the allegation to few local reporters, a senior Customs officer has said that the probe is on. 

  8. The Chief Minister on Monday refuted the allegations of involvement of anyone from his office being shielded. "No one will be shielded in that regard. People here understand what Chief Minister's office stands for," Pinarayi Vijayan responded during his evening press briefing on Monday when asked about the remarks by the opposition parties. 

  9. M Sivasankar was removed on Tuesday morning from the post of secretary to the Chief Minister. Later during the day, a new IT secretary was appointed Mr Sivasankar was relieved from his post on account of a long leave.

  10. The case has triggered a huge political row in the state amid fight against coronavirus.