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Kerala gold smuggling: ED rejects Swapna Sureshs' claims; says it's digging deep

The Enforcement Directorate rejected the claims of coercion made in an audio clip purportedly by Kerala gold smuggling case 'prime accused' Swapna Suresh

twitter-logoPTI | November 20, 2020 | Updated 16:24 IST
Kerala gold smuggling: ED rejects Swapna Sureshs' claims; says it's digging deep
File photo of Swapna Suresh

The Enforcement Directorate rejected the claims of coercion made in an audio clip purportedly by Kerala gold smuggling case "prime accused" Swapna Suresh and official sources said on Friday that the agency was digging deeper into the money laundering trail that involves a number of people.

The central probe agency has also written to the Kerala Prisons Department seeking a probe into how the clip was recorded and circulated in violation of guidelines meant for the accused in jail.

The sources said if the clip is true, it is a "serious breach" of legal procedures and aims at jeopardising the probe in a high-profile criminal case which has international ramifications.

An online news portal is stated to have released a voice clip that is purportedly of Suresh, at present in judicial custody, who alleged the ED was putting pressure on her to give a statement against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The development has created a political stir in the state.

The official sources said Suresh is a "prime accused" in the case and the allegations made in the clip of coercion by the ED to take certain names are "false and aimed to stall probe in the case".

They added that the ED has not offered her to be made an approver in the case.

The sources said the agency is "digging deep" into this money laundering case linked to gold smuggling and is looking to unravel the entire money trail that reached various people.

Suresh has been questioned in this case and her statement recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) that has been duly signed by her. The entire proceeding has been done as per law, they said.

A statement made by a person under section 50 of the PMLA is admissible in a court of law.

The agency filed its first chargesheet or prosecution complaint in this case sometime back and has named Suresh and others in it.

More such supplementary chargesheets are expected to be filed by the ED, including possible attachment of assets of the accused under the anti-money laundering law, they said.

The state prisons department had already ordered a probe into the surfacing of the voice clip.

In the clip, Suresh purportedly said investigative agencies tried to force her to take the name of Vijayan, which she refused to do.

She was also asked to sign documents regarding her statement without being permitted to read them, it was alleged in the clip.

South Zone Deputy Inspector General of Police Ajaykumar, entrusted with the probe into the audio clip incident, had visited the Attakulangra women prison in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday and told reporters that Suresh "had admitted that the voice in the clip was hers."

"But, the recording was not made in the jail," the DIG had said.

While the ruling CPI(M) has said that the alleged use of probe agencies "to target the chief minister" and the government was a very serious matter, Union Minister of State V Muraleedharan and the state Congress slammed the Left front government, alleging it was a "political plot" to divert attention from corruption charges ahead of the local body elections next month.

The ED, the Customs Department and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) are conducting separate probes into the alleged gold smuggling racket that was busted with the seizure of Rs 15 crore worth of the precious metal from the 'diplomatic baggage' of the UAE Consulate at the Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5.

Suresh, a former employee of the consulate, Vijayan's former principal secretary M Sivasankar and several others have been arrested in this case by the ED and other agencies.

MoS Muraleedharan had alleged that the voice clip was planted by the chief minister's office and it was a conspiracy ahead of the local body polls to derail the probe reaching Vijayan's office.

State Congress President Mullapally Ramachandran had said the audio clip was an attempt by the state government to wriggle out of the corruption charges being faced by it.

The CPI(M), in a statement, had said "attempts" to force the accused to turn approver amounts to challenging the democracy and the law of the land.

The ED, in its chargesheet filed last month before a special court in Ernakulam district, had named three accused -- Suresh, Sarith PS and Sandeep Nair.

"The accused indulged in criminal activities and huge amount of proceeds of crime have been generated and they are possessing, concealing and using such proceeds of crime."

"The chargesheet has been filed against them (with a prayer) for punishing the accused in accordance with the law for the offence of money laundering," the ED had the said in a statement.

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