Kerala gold seizure: Principal Secretary to CM Vijayan sacked day after 30 kg gold seized from diplomatic baggage at Thiruvananthapuram airport

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Updated: Jul 07, 2020 11:56 AM

Kerala: 30 kg gold worth Rs 15 crore was seized at Thiruvananthapuram airport from diplomatic baggage by the Customs department.

30 kg gold seized at Thiruvananthapuram airport: Kerala CM Vijayan’s Principal Secretary M Sivasankar sacked. (file pic)

In a major development that puts the office of the Kerala Chief Minister in dock, M Sivasankar, the Principal Secretary to the CM has been sacked for his alleged involvement in the racket that saw the seizure of 30 kg of gold at the Thiruvananthapuram airport yesterday, news agency ANI reported. It said IAS Mir Mohammed has been given additional charge of the position. Sivasankar will continue to remain IT Secretary.

A Kerala resident was arrested while a woman employee of the state IT Department was sacked for their alleged involvement in a gold smuggling racket. The development comes a day after 30 kg gold worth Rs 15 crore was seized at Thiruvananthapuram airport from diplomatic baggage by the Customs department. This was the first time that the Customs has seized gold in the country from diplomatic baggage meant for the staff in the United Arab Emirates Consulate General in Kerala.

The local resident, who is now in custody, had earlier worked with the Consulate-General’s office as a PRO. Besides him, a woman staffer of the state IT Department has been terminated from service for her involvement in the case. She has been identified as Swapna Suresh.

Swapna worked as a marketing manager with Space Park under the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited. The action against the lady came after Sarith, the main accused, spilled the beans about Swapna’s involvement during questioning.

Notably, Swapna had earlier worked at the Consulate as executive secretary.

She is reportedly absconding and Customs officials have examined her apartment in the city, a report in The Indian Express said.

According to the Customs, Sarith took advantage of the immunity and privileges enjoyed by diplomatic missions. He is no longer associated with the consulate.

Sources told The Indian Express that the smuggling attempt was foiled, and the consignment seized, on the basis of a specific tip-off. Sarith was arrested from the airport where he had come to collect the cargo. Meanwhile, the UAE Consulate General office has disowned the cargo and vowed to cooperate with the investigation”, Customs Commissioner Sumith Kumar said.

The involvement of a lady staffer of the state IT department has put Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the dock. Vijayan who handles the IT portfolio is facing the opposition’s ire.

Both the Congress and BJP have alleged that the CM’s Office (CMO) has links with the gold smuggling racket.

Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said Vijayan cannot remain silent on the issue and demanded a probe by the CBI.

“Misuse of diplomatic immunity has international ramifications. For the first time, the office of Kerala CM has come under the shadow of such a serious allegation. Names of two senior officials of CMO are being linked in the media. The whole issue needs a CBI probe,” the opposition leader said.

BJP state president K Surendran claimed the involvement of the Chief Minister’s Office. He said the Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary has been a frequent visitor at Swapna’s residence.

“She had been involved in criminal cases in the past. Such a person was appointed in the IT Department with the connivance of the CMO,” he said.

Meanwhile, CM Vijayan has refuted allegations saying Swapna had been appointed without his knowledge and warned the BJP against making attempts to tarnish the CMO’s image by “uttering any rubbish”.

“I don’t know under which circumstances she was appointed. It was not with my consent,” he said.

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