Kerala police begin probe into leaked voicemail of gold smuggling accused

The Kerala police on Thursday ordered a probe after Swapna Suresh, the main accused in Kerala gold smuggling case, in a purported voicemail claimed that the Enforcement Directorate was pressuring her to name chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the racket with inducement to make her an approver.

The voicemail was released by a web portal Thursday morning and was soon shared widely. Suresh also alleged that the ED forced to sign her statement and did not allow her to read it.

Shortly after the voicemail began trending and sparked a controversy, Director General of Police (Jail) Rishiraj Singh ordered a probe into the incident.

Deputy inspector general of police Ajay Kumar who is investigating the new development said Swapna Suresh has agreed that it was her voice but he said it was not sent from the jail . During questioning, she reportedly told the official that she did not exactly remember when she said this. Booked under Cofeposa (Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act) she is now lodged in the women’s jail in Thiruvananthapuram.

Earlier another accused in the case, M Sivasankar, senior bureaucrat and the CM’s former secretary, also made a similar allegation in the court. The ED had denied it. A senior official who is part of the multi-agency probe said it was a tactic to pressurise central agencies.

The CPI(M) state secretariat released a statement saying the central agencies were keen to implicate the CM’s office in the smuggling case and the party will oppose the move.

Minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedhran also waded into the latest row and called it a drama enacted by the CM’s office.

“The CM lauded the central agencies all these day but turned against them when it started probing his office also,” he said.

The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the voicemail was a move to sabotage the ongoing investigation into the gold smuggling case and sought a high-level probe into it.

Two days ago, BJP state president K Surendran had alleged that many people were meeting Suresh in the jail and sought the list of people who met Suresh in the jail since she was lodged there in the second week of October.

“The CM’s office is behind the latest development,” said Congress unit’s chief Mullapally Ramachandran. He also said that Vijayan was scoring a self-goal as the investigation was about to reach him.

Two weeks ago, C M Raveendran, another secretary of the chief minister was summoned by the ED but could not appear after he had tested positive for Covid-19. Raveendran is reported to be very close to the CM.

The gold smuggling case surfaced on July 5 after 30 kg of yellow metal was seized by the Customs from a package camouflaged as diplomatic consignment addressed to the UAE consulate.

Later P S Sarith Kumar, a former public relations officer of the consulate who came to receive the baggage, was arrested by the customs.

Two other suspects, Swapna Suresh and her accomplice Sandip Nair, were arrested from their hideout in Bengaluru five days later by the National Investigation Agency. Senior bureaucrat Sivasankar was suspended after his alleged links with Suresh surfaced. Five central agencies are probing the case in which 36 people were arrested.

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