Thiruvananthapuram: Customs dropped a virtual bombshell ahead of Assembly elections, informing the Kerala High Court that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, President Sreeramakrishnan and three ministers were directly involved in smuggling dollars with the help of the Consul General of the United Arab Emirates.
The claim is based on the secret court testimony of gold smuggling ringleader Swapna Suresh, who revealed that she acted as an interpreter between the chief minister as well as the president and the consul general because she knew Arabic and the people on either side did not. understand each other’s language.
Swapna claimed that commissions paid under various state government projects were channeled through the road. She further disclosed that Mr Sivasankar, the former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, was the link between the UAE Consulate and the politicians.
The special court for economic crimes, which heard the testimony last December, was shocked by the revelations and found that large sharks were involved in the clandestine operations and that all of this had been brought to light.
But since then, although there have been reports that the president will be summoned and some of the senior officials in the CM’s office have even been called in for questioning, investigations have stalled, prompting the UDF opposition to allege that the foot-dragging by the central power agencies was due to a secret deal between the CPI-M and the BJP.
Apparently, the fact that the CBI requested the postponement of the Lavalin case in which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is a defendant gave credence to such suspicions. The case has been adjourned up to 21 times without being taken up for hearing on one pretext or another by the CBI.
The Customs revelations come even as Pinarayi Vijayan and Finance Minister Thomas Isaac challenged the Enforcement Branch by filing a complaint against controversial state government funding agency KIIFB for violating regulations changes.
Both had claimed that, unlike the congressman-led governments in North India, the LDF government in Kerala would not be intimidated by ED’s threats and had mounted pressure against the central agencies.
The Customs revelations must be placed in the context of such mistrust. The new revelations have created a new crisis for the CPI-M and the ruling LDF, which fear Customs will question Pinarayi Vijayan and President Sreeramakrishnan ahead of crucial parliamentary elections.
This would give the opposition a lot more election propaganda than they anticipated. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and BJP head of state K Surendran demanded the immediate resignation of the chief minister who engaged in anti-national activities.
The CPI-M plans to stage protests outside state customs offices, but it is doubtful that the action will be good enough to neutralize the loss of credibility of Pinarayi Vijayan and his government caused by the shocking revelations.
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