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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Blow to Pinarayi Vijayan: Kerala CM’s office knew about gold smuggling, ED tells court

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s attempts to brush off the gold smuggling racket through diplomatic UAE consignments which has put his Government under intense scrutiny suffered a big blow on Wednesday when the Enforcement Directorate informed a special court in Kochi that CM Vijayan’s private secretary M Sivasankar (IAS) and some officials at the CM’s office were aware of smuggling activities.

Moreover, those arrested have spilled the beans on corruption kickbacks in many more flagship government projects.

As per a Hindustan Times report

“This is the first time the central agency has named the CM’s office in connection with the Kerala gold smuggling case.

The ED said the main accused in the smuggling case, Swapna Suresh, had divulged this information during her interrogation.

Last week the ED had summoned Raveendran, CM’s additional secretary, but he could not appear after he tested positive for Covid-19. According to officials, who are part of the multi-agency probe, Raveendran was summoned on the basis of the statements of Sivasankar and Suresh. A party leader from Kannur (north Kerala), Raveendran was very close to the CM and served under many ministers earlier.

In the remand statement, the ED also said Sivasankar was aware of the kickbacks in many dream projects of the government like Life Mission and KFON. He also leaked out vital project details and other information to firms which vied for the projects, the ED added.

“Sivasankar shared confidential information with Suresh relating to many key projects. There could be possible kickbacks to certain private parties. It is no coincidence that he knows all main accused in the gold smuggling case,” the statement said.

The latest report will invite trouble for the CM’s office which distanced from Sivasankar after his arrest. It said “Sivasankar and some officials at the CM team were fully aware of illegal activities”…

While investigating the gold smuggling case, probe agencies came across alleged irregularities and commissions in some other projects also. When Sivasankar was arrested on October 28, the government quickly distanced itself from him but in Raveendran’s case it will be difficult for the party to drop him. Besides the government, the party is also in big trouble after the arrest of secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh Kodiyeri in connection with the Bengaluru drugs case…

The smuggling case came to light on July 5 after seizure of 30 kg smuggled yellow metal from a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic consignment. A multi-agency team headed by the NIA is probing the case and 34 people have been arrested so far.”

Putting up a brave face while rejecting opposition parties’ demands for the CM’s resignation, the ruling CPI(M) blamed central agencies for ‘destabilising the government’ and ‘stalling developmental projects’.

A history of scams, political killings and mis-governance

HinduPost has been covering the gold smuggling saga ever since the news first broke, and had demanded the CM’s resignation back in July itself, as the smuggling case was just one of many corruption and other controversies surrounding Vijayan and the CPM party.

Other CPM ministers and senior party leaders whose name has come up in this case:  KT Jaleel, MLA from Thavanur in Malappuram district and Minister for Higher Education as well as Minority Affairs – an ex-SIMI activist; EP Jayarajan, the Minister for Industries, and his son Jaison have also been found to be uncomfortably close to Swapna Suresh – Jaison and Swapna are alleged to have been conduits for deals like Red Crescent Life Mission involving construction of  around 140 apartments and a hospital complex near Trichur funded by the UAE-based Red Crescent charity.

UK-based consultancy firm  Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ (PwC) name has also come up in this case as it facilitated a poorly-qualified Swapna Suresh’s backdoor appointment to KSITIL, along with allegations of wrong-doing in other govt contracts like 3000 electric ‘green’ buses purchase. UAE’s ex-acting Consul General Rashid Khamis Al Sheimeili is also suspected to have played a role in the smuggling ring, but was quickly pulled out of Bharat by his govt once the case came to light and is now back in UAE.

Agencies have also found links of the smuggling racket to hawala, money laundering and terror financing. In fact, Jaleel has been called for questioning by NIA in the terrorism finance related case. The infiltration of CPM party loyalists into the Kerala police has led to allegations that the police, customs and intelligence apparatus are trying to derail the investigation and obstruct central agencies. Kerala has already withdrawn the general consent accorded to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to operate in Kerala voluntarily.

Other scams in which Pinarayi Vijayan and/or CPM leaders/their families find themselves embroiled are – Sprinklr data scam, BevQ app, SNC Lavalin, drug racket, e-mobility (electric buses) scam, Kerala Fibre Optic Network (K-FON) kickbacks etc.

Silence of pillars of democracy & Lutyens’ intelligentsia

A supposed cadre-based party like CPM is exhibiting the same signs of nepotism and dynasticism that other ‘secular’ parties exhibit – CM Vijayan’s daughter, State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s sons, and Industries Minister Jayarajan’s son are all accused of abuse of power or being involved in serious crimes.

Apart from corruption and mis-governance, the Pinarayi regime has unleashed a wave of violence against Hindu activists (dozens have been killed in last few years), mostly affiliated to RSS or BJP.  Politicisation of colleges and universities is complete – SFI (CPM student wing) has converted student union offices into torture chambers, as concluded  by an independent judicial commission. But this is not surprising given that Pinarayi Vijayan is reported to have in 2008 asked his party workers to follow the Bengal communist style of killings opponents – ‘bury their bodies in a deep pit along with a sack of salt. The world never comes to know about the blood, photographs or the news about such killings.’.

‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan has slammed the Pinarayi government and warned of the “doom awaiting Kerala.”

While even ordinary citizens like one Michael Varghese have filed a write petition filed in the Kerala High Court for CBI probe against CM Pinarayi Vijayan, the Nehruvian establishment firmly entrenched in Lutyens’ Delhi turns a blind eye to going ons in Kerala, and prefer training their guns on Yogi or Modi over fabricated charges like what we witnessed in the Hathras case which went off the radar as soon as uncomfortable facts about the manipulation of the Dalit victim’s family by urban naxals and other anti-Hindu forces started emerging.

Even higher judiciary which is quick to accept PILs or take suo motu notice on bizarre allegations like BH Loya case or Rafael saga where The Hindu was actually caught red-handed faking news, does not seem bothered with the abuse of power taking place in Kerala.

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