Kerala High Court declines to intervene in gold smuggling case

Kerala gold smuggling sandeep nair
Accused in Kerala gold smuggling case, Sandeep Nair, being taken by police after a hearing at a special court, in Kochi, Monday, July 13, 2020.
Image Credit: PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday declined to intervene in the gold smuggling case even as the National Investigation Agency probe now enters a crucial phase.

A division bench of the High Court refused to intervene by maintaining that the NIA should be allowed to move forward with its ongoing investigation.

Many are, meanwhile, waiting with bated breath to see if the huge political controversy over the case would rock the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala due to alleged heavy damage inflicted on its public image.

The first phase of the probe ended on Tuesday after the NIA probe team visited different parts of the state capital to collect evidence in the matter. It took along accused P.S. Sarith, Swapna Suresh, and Sandip Nair, all of whom are in the NIA custody.

According to sources, in the second phase of the investigation beginning on Wednesday, the NIA team will hold joint quizzing session with the three key accused. This is going to determine the future course of the probe, as till now the NIA has collected evidence in the form of forged documents and fake seals.

The NIA probe is categorised into two sections – one to investigate the role played by the accused in the racket and the help they received from higher-ups. Secondly, the manner in which money was used by the end-users, comprising mostly middlemen who supply gold to jewellery shops. It’s here that the NIA will look into the terror-funding aspect of the whole racket.

The NIA is also probing if the money generated by the gold smuggling racket reached the Malayalam film industry.

Meanwhile, the opposition clamour for Vijayan’s scalp in the case continues to grow.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said: “His office is the epicentre of all the shady activities, including handing out consultancies and appointing people without qualifications and merit in key posts. By now, his free-for-all has come out in cases like Sprinklr, Bev Q app, illegal sand mining deals etc. No matter how much he tries to defend himself in the gold smuggling case, he just cannot wash his hands off since the involvement of his office is now out in the open.”

The Communist Party of India – the second biggest ally in the ruling LDF alliance – has also taken potshots against the way things are turning out. State CPI Secretary Kanam Rajendran said: “Not always will the graph of the government go high.”

The biggest setback for Vijayan is the flak on social media. All his previous statements on the need for upholding probity in public life are being played out, when he went hammer and tongs against then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy ( 2011-16) in the ‘solar scam’.

The CPI-M central committee will take up this issue at its meeting later this week and also at the Left Democratic Front’s special meeting here next week.

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