Kerala gold smuggling case | ‘Leaked’ audio kicks up a row

It hints at ED bid to coerce accused.

November 19, 2020 12:41 pm | Updated November 20, 2020 01:32 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram:

 Swapna Suresh at the preventive detention block of the Women’s Jail at Attakulangara in the capital on Wednesday.

Swapna Suresh at the preventive detention block of the Women’s Jail at Attakulangara in the capital on Wednesday.

A ‘leaked’ audio recording of an accusatory mobile phone conversation, purportedly between gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh and an anonymous person, has kicked up a row.

Also read | Sivasankar, CMO were aware of gold smuggling, says ED

The audio appears to suggest that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had attempted to coerce Swapna into giving a statement implicating Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in her questionable financial transactions with persons in the UAE. Swapna is currently a COFEPOSA detainee at the Attakulangara Women’s Prison here.

Quid pro quo deal

The recording that surfaced on Wednesday hinted that the ED had invited Swapna to turn approver. However, the rider to the deal was that she should depose against Mr. Vijayan and his former Principal Secretary M. Sivasankar and accuse them of wrongdoing.

Also read: Ground Zero | In Kerala, a tangled web of gold

The conversation also implied that the ED had doctored Swapna’s statement. The ED allegedly did not allow Swapna to read her account of events and its agents asked her to sign what they had written down after questioning.

The theme of the voice clip seemed to echo the Left Democratic Front (LDF)’s contention that the ED wanted to foist a case on Mr. Vijayan to destabilise the government and rob it of its mandate. Former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Sivasankar had said in a court filing that the ED had arrested him on money-laundering charges because he had defied the agency’s diktat to implicate Mr. Vijayan in the case.

The ED had earlier arrested Mr. Sivasankar on the gold smuggling case linked money laundering charges. He is currently a remand prisoner in Kakkanad Sub-Jail in Kochi.

The CPI(M) State secretariat said the statements of the accused pointed to a deep-rooted conspiracy to target Mr. Vijayan. Alleging that the Central agencies had offered inducements to the suspects to depose against Mr. Vijayan, the party said a court in Kochi had also doubted the grounds for the arrest of Sivasankar.

The BJP and the United Democratic Front were behind the plot to destabilise the government, the CPI(M) said, adding that it would build a wall of popular resistance against the move to rob the government of its mandate.

Opposition response

However, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan said the ‘leaked’ audiotape was a bid by Mr. Vijayan's office to whitewash the ‘sleazy’ record of the government and play the victim ahead of the local body polls. “The tape is an afterthought aimed to benefit the CPI(M) politically,” he said.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullappally Ramachandran said Mr. Vijayan's media advisers had scripted the ‘drama’ to divert public attention from multiple scandals that have beset the government. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala demanded an inquiry into the matter.

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