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Vijayan can't wash his hands off gold smuggling case: Union minister
New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram, July 8 - A day after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the state government has nothing to do with the gold smuggling case and any action has to be taken by the Centre, Union Minister V. Muraleedharan, also from Kerala, said that the Vijayan cannot wash his hands off.
On Sunday, the Air Customs attached to the Thiruvananthapuram airport had seized 30 kg gold that arrived on a cargo flight and was kept in a warehouse for release. The baggage had arrived from Dubai and is understood to have been marked to the UAE consulate which has its office in the heart of the state capital.
The consulate's former PRO, Sarith, has been arrested, while the prime suspect in the smuggling racket, Swapna Suresh, a woman who wears many hats, is on the run. She also happens to be close to the ruling Left Democratic Front government in the state and despite dubious qualifications, she was holding a high paying job and was very close to senior IAS official M. Sivasankar, secretary to Vijayan and also the state IT secretary.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs Muraleedharan told the media in Delhi that the Centre views this gold smuggling case very seriously.
"All those involved in this smuggling will be brought to book. Various central agencies are seized of this case and are doing their work. I will not be in a position to say if this agency or that agency is looking into it. What's most surprising is that Vijayan says the state government has nothing to do with it. He just cannot wash his hands off," said Muraleedharan.
"It's most surprising that his own confidant and high ranking IAS official holding the post of his secretary and also heading the IT department had close links with an accused in the case. Yet he says they have no role. You (Vijayan) and your agencies have a very crucial role in probing this and yet you say since the airport comes under the Centre, the state government has no role. Your right hand man is in trouble," added Muraleedharan.
Swapna had worked in the consulate office here for a while and was on good terms with Sarith.
"This case is just not a mere smuggling case and there is more to it. And this case is not just a one off issue and the authorities did not just open a baggage. They opened the baggage after following the rules. The various agencies are now looking into this case and depending on the circumstances, the concerned agency or agencies will do the needful," added Muraleedharan.
The Congress-led UDF and BJP-led NDA on Wednesday demanded Vijayan's resignation and a probe into the gold smuggling case. The Congress said a CBI investigation was needed in the case.
Defending Vijayan, was his number two in the Cabinet and State Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan who blamed the Congress and the BJP for trying to help the smugglers.
"These parties are trying to divert issues by emphasising on Swapna, when the real issue is the smugglers. They are going berserk seeing the popularity of the Vijayan government and are saying baseless things and want to help the smugglers," said Jayarajan.
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