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Kerala Gold Scam: Customs Dept seeks protection from Centre for probing officers as they inch closer to ‘big names’ involved

Earlier too, the central government has extended CRPF protection to the customs officer after inputs were received that the gold smuggling syndicate could attack the customs office and officers, but was withdrawn later in September after the Centre asked them to seek protection from the Kerala police.

With the names of high profile individuals cropping up in the Kerala Gold scam, the Customs Commissioner has written a letter to the Centre seeking CRPF protection for the office as well as investigating officers probing the case. The request for protection came as the investigating team learned that their probe in the Kerala Gold scam might yield some big names and that could lead to security threat for the team. 

According to the sources privy to the ongoing investigation in the Gold scam, distinguished individuals, including politicians and bureaucrats and police officials could be involved in the case. 

Earlier too, the central government has extended CRPF protection to the customs officer after inputs were received that the gold smuggling syndicate could attack the customs office and officers, but was withdrawn later in September after the Centre asked them to seek protection from the Kerala police. 

In a new twist to the ongoing Kerala Gold Scam, the prime accused in the case Swapna Suresh’s advocate announced that he is leaving lawyering because of ‘professional reasons’. Sources cite rumours of Swapna Suresh and Sarith Kumar turning approvers in the case may have influenced his decision to leave lawyering.  

Earlier yesterday, Swapna and Sarith recorded their confessional statements in front of the Magistrate. On the same day, Swapna Suresh, Sarith Kumar, IAS officer M Sivasankar and Unitac Builders MD Santhosh Eapen were questioned collectively by the investigative authorities. In addition to these four, the Customs officers had also called former UAE gunman Jayghosh and driver Siddique for questioning. 

The authorities believed that the suspects involved in the case ran a hawala channel to send large amounts of money to the tune of Rs. 100 Crores and diplomats could be involved in the hawala operation. 

What is Kerala Gold Smuggling case?

The Kerala gold smuggling case has all the ingredients to be turned into a Bollywood thriller, involving globe-trotting investigation about the gold smuggling, politics, involvement of diplomats, terror angle and hawala links. 

This particular case of gold smuggling by misusing diplomatic channels came to the fore on July 5, 2020, when the customs officials at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport confiscated baggage containing gold weighing over 30 kg and valued at around Rs 15 crore. This gold was inside diplomatic baggage that landed by air cargo, and was addressed to the UAE consulate.

Acting on a specific tip-off that a baggage was a part of a syndicate used to smuggle gold, the authorities found out that the luggage belonged to one Swapna Suresh, a staffer at the UAE consulate. Later, the principal secretary of Kerala CM, M Sivasankar, Sandeep Nair, PS Sarith, Fazil Fareed and KT Jaleel were also accused in the case.

The investigation was initially started by the Customs department but the Ministry of Home Affair on July 9 transferred the case to the National Investigation Agency citing the case may have “serious implications for national security”.

The case has embroiled the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Kerala government in the state, which found itself in the eye of the storm kicked up by the preliminary investigation into the gold smuggling case. The alleged involvement of M Sivasankar, the principal secretary of the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the gold smuggling case indicated that there could be involvement of other big-shot politicians too. 

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