August 2020
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Cong, BJP allege IT dept employee involved in gold seizure, unaware of appointment, says CM
Thiruvananthapuram: The opposition Congress and BJP in Kerala on Monday alleged that a woman in the state IT department, a former employee of a consulate, was involved in smuggling 30 kg of gold from a ''diplomatic baggage'', even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he was unaware of it and would look into it The IT department is under the Chief Minister and is headed by Vijayan''s Principal secretary, M Sivasankar, who is also the IT secretary. While senior Congress Leader Ramesh Chennithala sought a CBI probe into the matter alleging that the Chief Minister''s Office had "become a den of criminals", BJP chief K Surendran charged that the customs authorities had received a call from the CMO soon after the seizure Aformer employee of a consulate of a foreign country in Kerala was being questioned by the Customs in Kochi in connection with the seizure from a "diplomatic baggage" at the airport here in a suspected smuggling attempt by a syndicate using the immunity, officialsources said.

A day after Customs sleuths seized over Rs 15 crore worth gold that landed in a diplomatic baggage by air cargo at Thiruvananthapuram international airport, a senior customs official said they were also investigating how unauthorised people can be associated with the clearance of the cargo. When the media sought Vijayan''s response to the charges of the opposition leaders, the Chief Minister said he was not aware about the factors behind her appointment and it would be looked into.

"This was a major haul that happened in the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. I would like to congratulate the Customs team that monitored the smuggling activity and seized the gold. It seems like they have details of those involved in the matter and the Customs will act soon," Vijayan said. Dismissing the BJP chief''s charge that the CMO was involved in the matter, Vijayan said his office had never entertained anyone involved in any sort of corruption and the people of the state know that. He also said that those involved would not be able to escape and would be brought to justice. "When anything happens in the state, some people are trying to link it with the Chief Minister''s Office.

The state government has offered all the support for the (customs) probe. The investigation is on. Raising unnecessary allegations does not suit a civil society," Vijayan said. Earlier, in the evening, Chennithala alleged that the Chief Minister''s Office tried to interfere in the matter. "A criminal gang is operating in the CM''s office. The chief minister should clarify about the persons from his office who allegedly tried to interfere in the investigation. The IT department is directly under chief minister. How does a person facing a crime branch probe get a job in the department? I demand a CBI probe to bring out the matter," Chennithala said.

He also pointed out that a section of the media had brought out the "misuse" of diplomatic channels at the global level and it was a "serious matter" The Chief Minister cannot keep silent over the matter and should come clean, he said. The BJP chief alleged that the first call came from the CMO when a person was taken into custody. "The accused woman is a Manager with the IT department. When smugglers were taken into custody, the first call came from the CM''s office. She has close links with the IT secretary. This is a matter concerning national security," Surendran alleged. The BJP chief also alleged that the woman was earlier questioned by the crime branch in another case and demanded to know how she was appointed in the IT department, which was under the Chief Minister.

However, sources said the woman was appointed as coordinator on contract for six months in the Space park under the IT department and was no longer with the department. The investigating team was questioning the former employee and efforts were on to make the woman also join the probe. Meanwhile, a search was conducted at the woman''s residence here inconnection with the seizure.

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