Kerala gold smuggling case | State trying to derail probe since role of CM’s principal secy surfaced: ED in SC

The Enforcement Directorate probing money laundering allegations in connection with the Kerala gold smuggling case has told the Supreme Court that the state machinery turned against it after the role of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s “Principal Secretary was detected”.

In a rejoinder affidavit filed in the top court, the agency said that “even though a letter was sent by the CM of Kerala to the PM” seeking investigation when the scandal broke, but “when the investigation progressed and the role of his own then Principal Secretary was detected, the state machinery turned against it and registered false cases by influencing the accused and making efforts to derail the investigation and trial”. It added that “one of the key accused, who was then the Principal Secretary, is continuing in a key high ranking position in the government of Kerala even today”.

The ED has approached the SC seeking transfer of the trial in the case from Kerala to Karnataka stating that the “local police and state government machinery are trying to manipulate and influence the accused and witnesses”.

Opposing the request, the state in an affidavit pointed out that the trial in the scheduled offence in connection with the scandal is pending trial in Kerala and the ED is seeking transfer in the money laundering case which is an offshoot of the scheduled offence “with ulterior motive to tarnish the government of Kerala by raising baseless allegations and averments that fair trial is not possible in Kerala”.

The state also contended that transferring the trial would cast aspersions on the independence of the judiciary in Kerala.

Countering this, the ED said in its rejoinfer affidavit that “attempts of the state of Kerala to pressurise, intimidate and influence the accused/witness are continuing”.

The agency said that the state in its application seeking impleadment in the case had said that a statement made by accused Swapna Suresh before a magistrate’s court under Section 164 “was enough to cause widespread riots in the State of Kerala”. Thus “it is…evident from the pleading of the state of Kerala in its impleadment application itself that the atmosphere in the state…is so charged in relation to this case that a free, fair, tranquil and independent trial free from external and extraneous influence would be almost impossible”, the ED added.

The ED pointed out that the state police had registered two separate FIRs against Swapna Suresh “pursuant to the statement u/s 164 given by her before the Judicial Magistrate in June 2022” and that “these FIRs…have been registered as a counter-blast” to the statement made by the accused woman. Besides, the state had also constituted a commission to inquiry into the correctness of its investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002.

“The constitution of the Commission of Inquiry is an instance of the continuous abuse of State machinery to impede prosecution. Such abuse in some form is continuing and hence the basis for seeking transfer continues to exist,” the ED said.

The agency said that after Swapna Suresh recorded her statement under Section 164 before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ernakulam, on June 7, 2022, she had also recorded her statement under PMLA on June 22, 2022. “In the said statement she has clearly stated about the involvement of high profile/politically exposed persons in gold/currency smuggling through the UAE Consulate and other illegal activities. She had also stated about threats from persons involved in the crime to pressurise and retract her statements,” the affidavit said.

The ED said that if the trial continues in the state of Kerala, “the high profile accused will influence the accused persons and witnesses and thereby derail the fair and independent trial of the case”.

The ED also said that it was not seeking the transfer on account of any apprehension against the judiciary, but only to uphold the sanctity of fairness in trial.

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