Smuggling case probe opens a can of worms

Fears of gangs loyal to rival groups mutating into unfettered gangster units

July 04, 2021 09:47 am | Updated 09:48 am IST - KOZHIKODE

KANNUR-KERALA03-07-2021;Customs officials brought Arjun ayanki (quotation gang leader of gold smuggling) at Kappakadavu near Azhikkal in Kannur on Saturday for further investigation-PHOTO;S_K_MOHAN

KANNUR-KERALA03-07-2021;Customs officials brought Arjun ayanki (quotation gang leader of gold smuggling) at Kappakadavu near Azhikkal in Kannur on Saturday for further investigation-PHOTO;S_K_MOHAN

An early morning accident on the National Highway at Ramanattukara in Kozhikode on June 21 blew the lid off the ‘operations’ of gangsters involved in gold smuggling and their counterparts committing robbery to snatch the contraband gold smuggled by carriers through airports in the region, including the Calicut international airport.

But that is not the worst of it. The ongoing investigations following the accident that claimed the lives of five persons are likely to unravel what can be suspected as deep-set ties among gangsters, people convicted in cases of political murders, and local political functionaries.

Case turns murkier

What would otherwise have been a routine probe into a road accident and gold smuggling took an interesting turn when it was found that the accident-hit vehicle had been involved in a chase between rival gangs.

The SUV involved in a high-speed collision with a truck was part of a suspected convoy of vehicles carrying people linked with a gold smuggling racket operating out of the Calicut airport at Karipur.

The arrest of Arjun Ayanki, former Democratic Youth Federation of India worker in Kannur, by Customs officers has given an indication about the use of political loyalty as an armour by some political workers and party supporters in Kannur convicted in political murder cases, who are allegedly involved in anti-social activities. Arjun Ayanki had gone to the Calicut airport on June 21 allegedly to take from the carrier the contraband gold which was purportedly sent for another racket at Koduvally.

The prime suspect in the case of foiled gold smuggling, Arjun Ayanki, was brought to his native village of Azhikode in Kannur on Friday by the Customs officials as part of the probe and to the house of Muhammad Shafi, a convict in the murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party of India leader T.P. Chandrashekharan, in nearby Mahe. The investigators suspect that Arjun Ayanki had close links with Shafi and ‘Kodi’ Suni, another convict in the murder case.

CPI(M) on the back foot

The arrest of Arjun Ayanki has put the Kannur district CPI(M) on the back foot. CPI(M) district secretary M.V. Jayarajan and other party leaders came out to say that the party will not protect any gangs involved in gold smuggling and other illegal activities.

The party leadership was hard-pressed to explain that party functionaries had no links with people such as Arjun and his associate Akash Thillankery, former CPI(M) worker and accused in the murder of Youth Congress worker S.P. Shuhaib in Kannur. The DYFI subsequently expelled C. Sajesh, its local functionary in Kannur, for his alleged connection with Arjun Ayanki.

Political ‘cover’

Hotbed of retaliatory political violence, Kannur is no stranger to loyal gangs of rival political parties hired for killing and maiming their rivals. The details of the probe into the gold smuggling rackets in the aftermath of the accident at Ramanattukara have raised the spectre of putative metamorphosis of those gangs into independent gangster groups taking to illegal and anti-social activities for making a fast buck using their political loyalties as protective shields.

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