Kerala’s gold smuggling scam keeps getting murkier. Initially, it started with reports of the Customs officials seizing 30 kilograms of gold, valued at Rs. 15 crores at the Thiruvananthapuram airport from a diplomatic cargo addressed to a person at the UAE Consulate-General. Soon it was found that ex-UAE Consulate staffers Sarith Kumar and Swapna Suresha were allegedly involved in the gold smuggling scam.
The links however went as far as Kerala’s IT department as well as a prominent bureaucrat and former Principal Secretary to Kerala CM, M. Sivasankar. Swapna Suresh was herself serving as a liaison officer for one of the firms linked to Kerala government’s IT Department.
The allegations of a nexus between Sivasankar and the key accused in the gold smuggling case has fomented political troubles for Vijayan. The political allegations have led to scapegoating. First, Sivasankar was removed and now a young and trusted lieutenant of Sivasankar, Arun Balachandran too has been removed by the Kerala government. Balachandran was another prominent face in the Kerala IT Department, as the former IT fellow to Vijayan.
However, Balachandran’s removal is about to create another political storm in Kerala. Balachandran has reportedly written a complaint to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the customs agencies. The young IT fellow has alleged that he is being framed in the gold smuggling case in order to ensure that Sivasankar goes free.
Balachandran’s name had actually cropped up after the agencies discovered that he had helped Swapna Suresh’s husband Jayashankar find an apartment on rent. However, Arun alleges that he had helped Jayashankar as Sivasankar asked him to do so. In fact, screenshots of the conversation between him and Sivasankar have found their way to the media.
Balachandran has also alleged that the ex-Principal Secretary to the Kerala CM, Sivasankar had known Swapna for quite some time and that now efforts were being made to shift the onus from the former IT Secretary to Arun Balachandran himself.
The allegations made by Arun only exacerbate Vijayan’s troubles. The perceived proximity between Sivasankar and Swapna Suresh has already mounted troubles for Vijayan. Swapna’s pictures with the Chief Minister and M Sivasankar, Principal Secretary to CM are viral on social media.
Ramesh Chennithala, the Leader of Opposition in Kerala has said, “It is shocking that Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was involved in gold smuggling, it is a threat to national security. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should take moral responsibility and resign.”
The Gold smuggling scam could, indeed, mean curtains for the Kerala CM. Chennithala added, “High power committee of United Democratic Front is bringing in a no-confidence motion against Left Democratic Front govt in connection with gold smuggling case. Congress MLA VD Satheesan has given the notice for the same today.”
The smuggling case at hand involves serious allegations and the links go right up to a top bureaucrat who was a prominent face in Pinarayi Vijayan’s office. It is in these circumstances that Arun Balachandran’s allegations become very serious. He is directly alleging foul play and scapegoating in order to rescue a top IAS officer seen as close to the Kerala CM.
A pertinent question that arises here is whether a young IT fellow is being scapegoated in order to sever the chain of accused individuals that may lead to the Chief Minister’s Office.