Gold and other maladies, Kerala Government in a quandary.

Kerala government has come under lens in the case of gold smuggling through diplomatic baggage
By AiswaryaRaj

The leader of opposition, Ramesh Chennithala alleged on Wednesday that the CMO had leaked details of all development projects to the accused in the gold smuggling scam, Swapna Suresh and her entourage. The former Principal Secretary, Sivasankar took commissions like the Life mission project based on this, he added. These allegations came as the Enforcement Directorate extended the custody of Sivasankar. The nail in the coffin for the kerala government came after ED summoned Chief Minister’s Additional Private Secretary, CM Raveendran in November first week.

The ED appearing before principal sessions court said that Sivasankar had asked the officials to clear the diplomatic baggage containing the gold without checking. He was arrested by the economic offences watchdog in a money laundering case. The principal sessions court had earlier permitted ED to take him into custody for questioning for seven days. Yesterday, the custody was extended. The ED submitted that Sivasankar and the second accused, Swapna Suresh had WhatsApp conversations and the latter persuaded him in a “desperate attempt” to intervene. Sivasankar was handed an anticipatory bail in connection with the case probed by ED and the customs.
The accused in the gold smuggling cases were charged by Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as the alleged crime was a threat to the security of the country. The NIA’s report suspected that they had used the proceeds for financing terrorism through various means, reported the Newsminute.

“From the investigation under PMLA and evidence gathered so far, it is clearly established that accused persons committed offence of Money Laundering as defined section 3 and they are liable to be prosecuted and punished under section 4 of PMLA,” said the charge sheet.

Earlier, the first accused, PS Sarith revealed in his statement to ED that the group formed on ‘Telegram’ for the purpose of communication about the smuggling gold was named as ‘CPM Committee’.
As per the Customs Act and diplomatic relations (Vienna convention), two types of objects of diplomates are exempted, official use and personal baggage of a diplomatic agent. The customs officer had to seek permission from higher authorities for opening the baggage which was found to have 30 kg of gold worth Rs 13 crore on July 4. With gold purchases in India having to pay 12.5 per cent import duty and 3 per cent GST, there have been a multitude of gold smuggling cases. Commissionerate of Customs Preventive seized 540.37 kg of gold in 2018-2019, the Economic Times report said.

The media have turned the daily COVID-19 related press conference into an opportunity for interrogating the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The government was performing well with “Kerala Model” in COVID-19 mitigation, countless welfarist schemes until the case came up. The corona virus cases have skyrocketed since the arrival of gulf repatriates. With the assembly elections in May and Panchayat elections right in the corner in December, the voters are in a dilemma.

Binish Kodiyeri, son of Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Kerala CPI(M) secretary has been in the custody of ED for a month pertaining to his alleged connection to an accused in a narcotics case and for financing illegal activities. These news have made the opposition UDF party run roughshod over the government alleging its involvement.