The Chief Minister’s office in Kerala has again found its name dragged in a major scandal. The investigators have confirmed that the 30 Kg of gold that was seized on 5th July by customs was smuggled by misusing diplomatic immunity.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s close aide and IT secretary M Shivshankar allegedly helped a woman named Swapna Suresh smuggle the gold. Shivshankar’s name had appeared earlier in roping Sprinklr Inc. to analyze public data for coronavirus outbreak.
Swapna is a former employee of the UAE consulate. When customs interrogated an Ex PRO of the UAE consulate named Sarith on 6th July, they found that Swapna has forged the Consulate documents to take advantage of the diplomatic immunity for smuggling gold from Gulf on 2nd July. She is currently working as the marketing liaison officer Space Park under the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL) that comes directly under the IT department.
The opposition is alleging that M Shivshankar has a significant role in appointing her for a highly sensitive project like Space Park in the IT department six months back. During the appointment, a crime branch case and adverse remarks by the intelligence wing against her were ignored.
Swapna is absconding
While Sarith has been nabbed by customs and is being interrogated, the main accused Swapna Suresh is absconding. As per reports, despite being terminated from the UAE Consulate office, Sarith was in contact with some officials, including Swapna. As diplomatic luggage is not examined, they were smuggling gold by taking advantage of Swapna’s allegedly forged credentials. The UAE Consulate has made it clear that they have no role in the corruption and their staff members were not involved. The baggage with the smuggled gold was opened by customs in the presence of the Consular attache´ and after due permission from the Ministry of External Affairs.
CM denied allegations
When CM Vijayan was asked about Suresh’s appointment in the IT department, he said his office didn’t know about it. “The matter has not come to my notice. We will ensure that no one will go unpunished as this matter is concerned,” he added.
The opposition parties BJP and Congress blamed the Chief Minister saying that his party is trying to save Swapna. BJP state president said that “Calls were made from the CMs office to the customs office on behalf of Swapna to halt the investigation and a person close to the CM had made the call.” Vijayan replied to the allegation calling it nonsense and said that no one with a suspicious track record could function from the CMs office.
Connect the dots and it leads you to the @vijayanpinarayi‘s office. Swapna Suresh has powerful patrons. A crime of this nature cannot be executed without the support of higher ups. pic.twitter.com/wOSHjLTIMA— K Surendran (@surendranbjp) July 6, 2020
Customs officials have arrested Sarith and raided the residence of Swapna Suresh. In 2019, a total of 550 KG gold was seized in Kerala, which was a national record. Customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar believes that irrespective of the lockdown, the customs department will do better this year. In the meanwhile, the state government has fired Swapna from her post in the IT department saying she was hired on a contractual basis.