New Delhi [India], July 8 (ANI): Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on Wednesday said that the recent case of gold smuggling through diplomatic baggage in Kerala is being viewed seriously with utmost attention by the Central government and assured that strict action will be taken against those found guilty.
The Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs also questioned the role of Kerala government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the case and urged it to issue a clarification for the people of the State.
"The smuggling issue that has come up in Thiruvananthapuram using the guise of UAE Consulate is being viewed seriously with utmost attention by the Government of India. The government has taken the required steps to find out the culprits. Everyone who is associated with this crime will be brought to book. Nobody should have any doubt about it," Muraleedharan said at a press conference here.
The Minister also criticised Kerala chief minister over his stance on the issue.
"There are many unanswered questions in the case to which the State government has to find answers and tell the people," the minister said,
"The stand taken by the Kerala CM in this whole issue, he (Pinarayi Vijayan) said it has happened at Trivandrum airport and said that the consignment had come for UAE consulate. But mypoint is that the person who was behind it and who was supposed to be the carrier was an employee of the Kerala government, in the IT Ministry, which is directly under the charge of the Kerala CM," he added.
The Union Minister further questioned the appointment of the accused in the IT department of the State.
"A person who was accused in a case and who is being investigated by the Crime Branch, Kerala police gets appointed to the Kerala government's IT department. It is said that she was on a contractual appointment, but the clout she enjoyed in Trivandrum, the role she played in various government functions is beyond her announced designations and beyond her official profile," Muraleedharan said.
The Union Minister also said that the contacts she maintained with senior leaders within the government and the ruling party have already been clarified by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in the state.
"The role played by Principal Secretary of the Kerala CM, the role played by him is ample evidence that there are efforts to protect such characters. The CM should, therefore, clarify and clear the cobwebs surrounding this related to the state government," he further said.
The minister earlier called on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in connection with the case.
On July 5, around 30 kg gold worth Rs 15 crore, concealed in diplomatic consignment, was seized at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport by the Customs Department.
Sarith Kumar, an accused in the case who had previously worked as a public relations officer (PRO) in UAE Consulate-General's office in Thiruvananthapuram was arrested on Monday and remanded to 14 days.
Swapna Suresh, another accused in the case is on the run after the gold was seized from the airport. Suresh was employed in Space Park and Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITL), which comes under the IT department, a portfolio held by Kerala Chief Minister.
Swapna was ousted after being named an accused in the case.
M Sivasankar, who was Chief Minister's Principal Secretary and served as IT secretary, was on Tuesday removed from both the posts.
Meanwhhile, authorities in United Arab Emirates have launched an investigation in the gold smuggling case to find out who sent the cargo containing gold to the address of UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Embassy said that the culprits have not only committed a major crime but also "sought to tarnish the reputation of the UAE mission in India" and they will not be spared. (ANI)