Kerala

Customs questions Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan

A Customs (Preventive) team interviewed Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan at his official residence here on Friday.

The investigators had reportedly arrived armed with a statement by UAE gold case accused Swapna Suresh.

The Speaker's Office informed that the Customs had earlier sought Mr. Sreeramakrishnan's leave to speak to him.

The Speaker had interacted with the agency meaningfully. There was no ground for any media speculation, the office stated.

The Customs had reached the Speaker's doorstep after Swapna had purportedly claimed in a sworn statement that Mr. Sreeramakrishnan had asked her to hand over a sealed bag to the consul general of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.

At the time, Swapna was the consul's executive secretary and the main go-between the State government and the diplomatic mission.

It was unclear whether Swapna had told the Customs that the bag contained any foreign currency or other contraband as alleged. The ultimate destination of the bag also remained unknown.

However, in a recent court filing, the Customs had alleged 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)".

Earlier, the Customs had questioned Mr. Sreeramakrishnan's additional private secretary K. Ayyappan. It had also reportedly

"red-flagged" Mr. Sreeramakrishnan's interactions with other accused in the smuggling case, including the inauguration of Sandeep Nair's car accessory shop in Nedumangadu in 2019.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) had sought Mr. Sreeramakrishnan's removal from office on the charge of bringing disrepute to the Assembly. However, the House had defeated Congress's motion.

The Customs and Enforcement Directorate probe against the Chief Minister and Speaker's Offices and the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIFFB) had severely strained Centre-State relations.

Congress and BJP had made the gold case and the related accusations against the LDF leadership a central plank of their electioneering during the Assembly poll campaign.

The State Crime Branch police had registered a case against unknown Customs and ED on the charge of arm-twisting gold case accused to falsely implicate the State's top political executive in the racket.

In the run-up to the polling day, the Government ordered a sweeping judicial enquiry into the alleged jurisdictional overreach and pronounced political bias of "central agencies" probing the UAE gold smuggling case.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 9:58:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/customs-questions-speaker-p-sreeramakrishnan/article34289421.ece

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