[Kerala Gold Smuggling Case] ED to SC: State Turned Against us After Personal Secretary for CM’s Role was Revealed

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: October 29, 2022 at 20:10 IST

Following the revelation of the involvement of the former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister (CM) Pinarayi Vijayan, the Kerala government turned against the Central government agency in the gold smuggling case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has informed the Supreme Court.

The ED said in a reply affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court that, notwithstanding the CM’s initial appeal for a fair probe in a letter to the Prime Minister, the State machinery turned against the ED once the involvement of the CM’s former personal secretary M Sivasankar was revealed.

“Despite the fact that the CM of Kerala sent a letter to the PM, as the investigation progressed and the role of his own then-Principal Secretary was revealed, the State Machinery turned against the ED and registered false cases by influencing the accused and attempting to derail the investigation and trial. One of the key accused, who was the Principal Secretary at the time, is still in a key high-ranking position in the Kerala government today,” the report stated.

The rejoinder was filed in response to the ED’s request that the trial in the 2020 gold smuggling case, in which one Swapna Suresh is the main accused, be moved from Kerala to Karnataka.

According to the ED’s plea, M Sivasankar, a former secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, is ordering senior officials of the Kerala Police and the State government to intimidate and influence the accused through threats.

The ED claimed that the same thing is being done to derail the trial and thus protect certain powerful government officials who are allegedly involved in the case.

Kerala’s government objected and filed an impleadment application.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court granted the Kerala government’s impleadment and served notice on it.

In response, the ED said that the Kerala government was using a double standard by opposing the trial’s transfer to Karnataka on the one hand and assigning ulterior motives to the statement given by accused Swapna Suresh before the magistrate on the other.

The rejoinder also emphasised the Kerala government’s contention in the impleadment application that Suresh’s statement could spark “widespread riots” in the state.

“It is clear from the State of Kerala’s pleading in its impleadment application that the atmosphere in the State of Kerala is so charged in this case that a free, fair, tranquil, and independent trial free of external and extraneous influence would be nearly impossible.”

“This clearly establishes the ED’s case for transferring the trial out of Kerala. As a result, the objection raised by the State of Kerala… is completely unjustified,” according to the affidavit.

The ED also claimed that there is no legal provision prohibiting the transfer of PMLA proceedings even when the scheduled offence has not been transferred.

In its reply, the ED also stated that false cases were filed against an investigating officer who was examining an audio clip related to the case.

The complaint was eventually dismissed by the Kerala High Court.

“… with the assistance of the state police, the state machinery fabricated false materials against the IO and registered 02 false cases in order to intimidate the I.O., with the intent of derailing the ongoing investigation and delaying the trial process.”

According to the ED, the State machinery has not provided effective assistance to the agency and has only hampered the proceedings.

“Apart from letters written to conceal and give the appearance of genuineness, the State machinery has not provided any effective assistance and has only been used to interfere with and obstruct proceedings under the PMLA. Several attempts were made to tamper with and obstruct the ED investigation through the use of state machinery.”

As a result of investigations carried out by numerous agencies into money laundering, illegal financial transactions, and significant gold smuggling through diplomatic channels, suspected criminals were apprehended and questioned in Kerala in July 2020.

Sarith PS and Swapna Suresh are two of the 20 people accused in the case who were named in a charge sheet the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed against them under several sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Scheduled offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) include the NIA and Customs offences.

A subsequent prosecution complaint was filed in December 2020, accusing M Sivasankar, an IAS officer serving in the State at the time of the alleged gold transaction, and the case is currently being heard by the Special PMLA Court Ernakulam.

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