Order probe, resign over gold smuggling case: Congress, BJP tell Vijayan

Thiruvananthapuram: ┬áThe Congress-led UDF and BJP-led NDA on Wednesday demanded Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s resignation and a probe into the gold smuggling case allegedly involving a woman working in the IT Department. The Congress said a CBI investigation was needed in the case.

Even as Swapna Suresh is on the run ever since her former colleague was arrested by the Customs in the case, the department officials on Wednesday took into custody a lady friend of her and were questioning her.

The name of Swapna Suresh, a high-profile consultant with the Kerala Information Technology Department, emerged during investigation into the smuggling of gold, linking her to top smugglers operating from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media on: “Vijayan on Tuesday said that he does not know this lady. It is a bluff as she has been seen moving close to Vijayan at a few functions. In January, at a two-day high-level Space Conference held at the Kovalam Raveez Hotel, the Chief Minister was at the meeting for four hours and this controversial lady was the host. All people know the relation between Vijayan and Sivasankar. Vijayan has now tried to wash his hands off by booting out Sivasankar from key posts. This clearly shows that he now fears the finger of suspicion will be on him. He should now order a CBI probe and then quit,” said Chennithala.

“… Kerala police failed to act as reports now point out that the gold smuggling gang by now has done a business of over Rs 100 crore. Also there are reports that gold was moved in state government vehicles. So, demand that the terms of reference of any probe should include the CM’s office also,” said Chennithala.

The Congress leader said that Vijayan’s claim that none from his office had called up the Customs was not true since it had been denied by a top Customs official, who has pointed out that they will call all those who called them to release the baggage containing gold.

State BJP president K. Surendran also pointed out that Vijayan’s office has a crucial role in the case and hence he should quit and face the probe.

“A detailed probe into the foreign trips of Vijayan’s top officials is needed. What Vijayan should have done first when this news came was to immediately order a high-level probe,” said Surendran.

The BJP on Wednesday also organised protests to demand Vijayan’s resignation, while Congress-led UDF will take to the streets to demand the same on Thursday.

It was only after one Sarith was arrested in the case that Swapna’s political links came out. She was said to be very close to senior IAS officer and Secretary to Vijayan, M. Sivasankar, who was also the IT Secretary.

Sivasankar was on Tuesday removed from his office and in the evening divested of the IT Secretary’s post too. Sivasankar later applied for a year’s leave, which has been sanctioned.