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Kerala News
Kerala has become ''hub'' of smuggling gold, alleges Chennithala
 
Kochi: Sharpening his attack against the CPI(M)-led LDF government over the sensational gold smuggling case, Congress veteran Ramesh Chennithala has alleged Kerala has become a ''hub'' of smuggling of the yellow metal and wants the NIA to expand its ambit of probe. With the premier investigating agency probing the case, having arrested key accused, including the alleged kingpin Swapna Suresh, Chennithala said NIA should investigate the possible role of government officials. Referring to the removal of IAS officer M Sivasankar as principal secretary to the Chief Minister and IT Secretary after his name emerged in the case, the senior Congress leader alleged that the action itself speaks about the link of the gold smuggling mafia with the state government.

"The Chief Minister was forced to remove the officer from the post of his principal secretary following the emergence of some telling evidence of his links with Swapna," Chennithala told PTI. "I don''t think any state government agency would carry out a free and fair probe into the illegal nexus between mafia and ruling dispensation," he alleged. Therefore, the NIA should expand its probe in the case covering the possible role of the higher ups in the state government, he said. Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, is among the four accused booked by the NIA in the smuggling of 30 kg of gold through diplomatic baggage, which arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram International airport on July 5.

The gold, valued at around Rs 15 crore, was seized by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Kochi. Swapna, Sarith and Sandeep Nair of Thiruvananthapuram and Fazil Fareed of Ernakulam have been arraigned as accused. The Congress leader said the state government did not act against the gold smuggling mafia despite the Opposition raising it in the state Assembly and about the threat to the state''s economy due to the illegal trade of the yellow metal. Chennithala said if the state government had used its effective powers under the new GST regime, the state exchequer would have got around Rs 3,000 crore as tax annually.

"But the state could collect only Rs 300 crore annually. This is the result of the state government''s less interest in the matter," he said. "The state''s police department also did not take any concrete action against the mafia. It is because of the illegal nexus between ruling party politicians, mafia and officials. As a result, the state has become a hub of global gold smuggling mafia under the CPI(M)-led rule," he alleged. Earlier, the NIA had registered an FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on the matter and said it has taken up the probe as the case has international linkages and since initial inquiries revealed the proceeds of the smuggled gold could be used for financing terrorism in India.

Also, as the case pertains to smuggling of a large quantity of gold into India from offshore locations, threatening the economic stability and national security of the country, it amounts to a terrorist act as stated in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Vijayan has come under strong opposition criticism over the gold smuggling case, with the Congress and BJP staging protests targeting the left government and demanding the chief minister''s resignation after Suresh was found to be working in the state IT department, a portfolio held by him. She had been sacked after her name surfaced in connection with the smuggling.


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