Facing flak from the opposition demanding his resignation, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his “intervention for an effective investigation” into the seizure of over 30 kg gold at the International Airport.
P Vijayan, in his letter, said that the case had serious implications as it undermines the nation’s economy.
“The fact that the attempt to smuggle huge quantity of gold was concealed in diplomatic baggage makes the matter extremely serious. It is learnt that customs officials are conducting inquiry into the incident. The case has serious implications as this undermines the economy of the nation. In fact, it has more than one angle warranting a thorough investigation,” P Vijayan said.
He also requested an investigation into the incident by central agencies concerned, saying that the scope of the probe should cover all aspects from the source to the end utilisation so that such incidents do not recur.
He also said the state government will provide all necessary assistance for the probe.
Following allegations that a former woman employee of a foreign Consulate, being investigated by the customs in the matter, was also an appointee of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a consulting agency, the PWC said a Delhi-NCR based third party agency had conducted the criminal record verification and found there were no criminal cases against her.
Meanwhile, Union Minister for state V Muraleedharan told reporters in Delhi that the baggage in which the gold was concealed was not “diplomatic baggage.”
“We cannot call it diplomatic baggage. But it’s a cargo that came for a diplomat. A diplomatic baggage is an official package sent from any country in an official manner. Here some person had sent a parcel to a person with diplomatic immunity. On the airway bill, it was written diplomatic baggage.
The person who came to receive the package was not having the requisite papers,” Mr Muraleedharan said.
He also said that the centre will probe the matter diligently and culprits will be booked.
“It’s the duty of the centre to investigate the smuggling. But the Chief Minister’s office must come clean about his close aides having ties with the accused persons. A woman, formerly employed with the IT department, who is also an accused in the matter, participated in major events organised by the government and even coordinated the same. How can the chief minister evade the responsibility,” V Muraleedharan said.
He claimed those in the state government were trying to save the accused.
Hitting back, state Industries Minister E P Jayarajan alleged that one of the accused in the case was a BJP worker.
“We all now know that Sandeep Nair, who is absconding in the case, is a man with very close contacts with senior BJP leaders including Kummanam Rajashekharan. His social media accounts prove the same. His mother also told the media that he was a BJP worker. And now this person is absconding. This is just an attempt to tarnish the image of the state government,” Mr Jayarajan said.
Leader of the opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala has alleged that the former woman employee of a foreign Consulate, being investigated by the customs in the matter, was also an appointee of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a consulting agency.
He said the role of PWC must also be probed.
Meanwhile, the PWC said in a statement: “As per the background verification report provided to the Delhi NCR based third party agency, specialising in short term resource provisioning and on whose payroll the concerned employee was, both her past employers, namely the Consulate General of the UAE, Kerala and AirIndia Sats Airport Services Pvt, confirmed “eligibility to rehire” the concerned employee.
The PWC also said that the agency has specifically confirmed that criminal record verification was conducted by them and there were no criminal cases found against her as per the report.
Kerala has been on the boil over the gold smuggling through an alleged diplomatic baggage with the Opposition parties up in arms seeking resignation of Chief Minister.