Central agency to resist Crime Branch move legally
The State Police Crime Branch (CB) has booked unnamed Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials on the charge of conspiring to dishonestly implicate Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the UAE gold smuggling case.
In an FIR filed in the court of Judicial First Class Magistrate-II, Ernakulam, on March 13, the CB said ED officials had coerced suspect Swapna Suresh on consecutive days in August last to state Mr. Vijayan had a stake in the racket.
The agency deposed the crime occurred in a cabin in the ED’s office in Kochi. The investigators had Swapna in custody for several days and had subjected her to prolonged interrogation.
The CB has booked the unnamed officials on the charge of conspiracy and fabrication of evidence. It would soon move the court for permission to question them. The FIR was the off-shoot of a CB preliminary inquiry to verify the authenticity of an accusatory voice recording purportedly belonging to Swapna.
The widely circulated voice clipping had triggered a controversy with the narrator, implying that "investigators" had "coerced" her into giving false evidence against Mr. Vijayan. However, the narrator did not name any specific agency in the clip.
Recently, the Customs Department had revealed that Swapna had “stated with clarity about the smuggling of foreign currency at the instance of Hon’ble Chief Minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) and Hon’ble Speaker (P. Sreeramakrishnan).”
The deposition threatened to strain Centre-State relations further. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) saw a BJP-backed conspiracy to discredit the government ahead of the Assembly polls on April 6. The LDF workers had laid siege to Customs offices across the State in protest against the BJP’s politicisation of the Central law enforcement.
LDF convener A. Vijayaraghavan said Swapna was in Central agencies’ custody since July last. Central agencies had used her protracted incarceration without any scope for bail to arm-twist her into implicating the government in the international racket.
Border enforcement was a Central subject. The failure to detect the bulk contraband gold movement via the UAE consulate’s diplomatic channel was the Centre’s failure.
An ED official said the agency would resist the CB move legally. He said the agency sensed an attempt at the State government level to sabotage the gold smuggling-related money laundering and foreign currency smuggling investigations.
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