The Customs investigation into the Karipur gold smuggling case appeared to edge closer to the alleged Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] men convicted of the murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader T. P. Chandrasekharan in Kozhikode in 2012.
The Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate) on July 8 told the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Economic Offences, Kochi, that the probe now focussed on the suspected role of one Muhammad Shafi.
(Shafi is undergoing rigorous imprisonment for the political murder along with several others in Kannur Central Prison. He is currently out on parole. The Customs had inspected his house as part of their investigation.)
The agency said it had call data records, WhatsApp chats and other digital communication which “showed” that Shafi was in “close proximity” with the main suspect in the case, Arjun Ayanki.
Ayanki, a DYFI “fellow traveller” and self-styled social media champion of the CPI(M), had come on the Customs radar after the “gold carrier”, Mohammed Shafeeq, “revealed” him as the kingpin of the smuggling network. The Customs had earlier arrested Shafeeq with 2.33 kg of gold at the Karipur airport.
The Customs told the court that Ayanki had claimed to have the protection of the murder case convicts. “Given the number of gold smuggling cases happening in Kerala, it is intriguing that the channel and destination of the proceeds of smuggling are still unknown”, it said.
The agency deposed that “the gangs project themselves as supporters of a political party through social media and thus lure youth to their fold and further use them for anti-social activities for which they source their funds by smuggling activities. Considering the negative impact, these gangs impart on youngsters, which is a social menace, the activities of these persons need to be further investigated”.
The Karipur enquiry assumed the dimensions of a stormy political controversy with the Congress and Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) accusing the CPI(M) and DYFI leaderships in Kannur of being up to their necks in gold smuggling and allied violent crimes.
The Opposition had said the party’s T. P. murder case convicts controlled gold smuggling via Karipur and that the prison provided a perfect alibi for their criminal operations.
Congress State president K. Sudhakaran, MP, had said last week that the “hit squads” got parole at will, had access to mobile phones and home food in jail and lorded over networks that offered protection to criminal rackets. He challenged the CPI(M) leadership to throw T.P. murder case convicts out of the party.
After the Karipur controversy hit the headlines, CPI(M) suspended C. Sajeesh, zonal secretary of the Chembilode DYFI unit, for allegedly leasing his car to Ayanki.
The CPI(M) publicly dissociated itself from so-called “party fan pages” run by “smugglers” persons on social media. It directed its members to follow, like and respond only on the party’s official page. The party also promised to stamp out criminal tendencies among cadre and regulate the social media behaviour of members. The CPI(M) also resolved to carry out more background checks of its members, including their source of wealth.
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