Thiruvananthapuram

Gold smuggling case | Demand for Kerala CM’s resignation gets shriller

Poice arresting BJP Mahila Morcha activists who tried to enter the Secretariat North block where the Chief Minister's Office is located in Thiruvananthapuram.   | Photo Credit: S Mahinsha

The Opposition’s demand for the resignation of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan got shriller on Thursday with a court in Kochi remanding his former Principal Secretary, M. Sivasankar, in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for a week of questioning in connection with money laundering aspect of the UAE consulate linked gold smuggling case.

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unleashed a wave of protests across the State accusing Mr. Vijayan of allowing economic offenders to harness the heft of his office to facilitate the smuggling of gold in air freight addressed to foreign officials at the diplomatic mission here.

Youth Cong. workers dispersed

The police used their water cannon to disperse Youth Congress workers who attempted to storm the Chief Minister’s official residence at the Cliff House here. BJP protesters tried to topple the barricade and push their way into the government Secretariat through the police cordon guarding the gates.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary K.P. Anil Kumar said party workers would hold torchlight processions at the panchayat and municipal ward level in the evening to highlight Mr. Vijayan's “culpability” in the racket.

On the 65th anniversary of the creation of the State of Kerala on November 1, BJP workers would line up in a physically distanced manner on the side of State and National Highways to form a human chain to highlight Mr. Vijayan's alleged link with economic offenders.

Local body polls

The gold smuggling scandal has unfolded as Kerala prepares to hold local body elections in December.

The ED’s filing in court that Mr. Sivasankar had often called Customs inspectors to expedite the release of freight sent from Dubai in the name of UAE Consulate officials without inspecting the incoming goods or levying duty appeared to have provided ammunition to the Opposition to target the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) and Mr. Vijayan directly.

Chennithala’s claim

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the overlapping investigations into the gold smuggling racket would expose the role of more officials in the CMO.

He said the ED and Customs were set to question them and claimed Mr. Vijayan’s turn would come soon. Mr. Sivasankar had merely done Mr. Vijayan’s “bidding”. He was just a “pawn”. Mr. Vijayan was the real culprit, Mr. Chennithala alleged.

The government and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was “up to the neck in criminality”. The ED was questioning Binish Kodiyeri, son of CPI(M) State secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, in Bengaluru on suspicion of extending financial aid to a trafficker in narcotic drugs. The ED was verifying his sources of income and could arrest him on charges of money laundering. “It seems all crimes lead to the CPI(M) or the CMO,” Mr. Chennithala said.

‘Two Ministers involved’

BJP State president K. Surendran said Central agencies were probing the role of two Ministers in the gold smuggling case. He refused to identify them and claimed their “discreditable” activities would come to light soon.

Central law enforcement agencies were set to question them. He said two officials attached to the CMO were also under the scanner of the agencies. Mr. Surendran alleged that Mr. Vijayan was the “kingpin of the racket”. His friends and relatives had benefited from the smuggling and also the illegal inflow of foreign funds, he charged and said the Chief Minister had lost the right to continue in office, he said.

CPI(M) defends CM

The CPI (M) has stoutly defended Mr. Vijayan. Party Central Committee member M.V. Govindan said the Chief Minister would serve out the rest of his term and the LDF would sweep to power in the coming local body and Assembly elections.

He said the Congress and the BJP had scant credibility and claimed that the public would see through their lies and vote for the development and social welfare achievements of the LDF government.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 8:03:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/gold-smuggling-case-demand-for-kerala-cms-resignation-gets-shriller/article32971020.ece

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