Thiruvananthapuram: Customs has decided to take the statement of Speaker Sreeramakrishnan in connection with the dollar havala transaction next week. The dollars were taken out of the country with the help of the Egyptian accountant of the UAE consulate here, who is now in hiding.
The central agency is moving very cautiously in the issue, asking the Speaker, who occupies a constitutional position, about the case ‘informally’ to avoid any controversy. As such, no formal notice has been served.
Customs has apparently decided that a formal questioning can wait until it hears directly from Sreeramakrishnan. On the basis of what it can gather from him, it would go to the next step of formally moving against him.
Customs is in receipt of information that the Speaker and a few other top political functionaries of the state have investments in the Gulf’s education sector. Sreeramakrishnan has accepted that he has connections with some NRIs, who are actively involved in the business.
The tip-off was given by gold smuggling kingpins Swapna Suresh and Sarith when they were questioned separately in the jail. Their statements were later recorded confidentially in the court.
In fact, he had been using a SIM card taken in the name of one of these men and he accepted in a media interview that he may have spoken to Swapna and Sarith using the phone. Curiously, the phone went dead from the time the gold smuggling case was unearthed in the middle of last year.
The Speaker says he used the SIM card because at that time he did not have identity papers to take one in his own name.
Customs has questioned the owner of the SIM card as well as other investors in Muscat’s Middle East College, where Sreeramakrishnan is said to have made investments.
It is leant that Customs has prepared a detailed questionnaire, drawn up on the basis of inputs they have collected from various sources, including the questioning of various accused.
The Speaker belongs to the Muslim-dominated Malappuram area, which has a large number of successful NRIs operating from the Gulf countries.
Sreeramakrishnan had claimed as late as on Thursday that the reports about his impending questioning by Customs were a creation of the media outlets.
It is not known if the Speaker would oblige the central agency by answering the questions they ask. When Customs had called his private secretary earlier in connection with the case, he had initially taken the stand that his questioning required approval from the Speaker’s office.
After refusing to present himself on two occasions, the private secretary ultimately went to the Kochi office of Customs and answered the questions about the Speaker’s frequent foreign visits. Sreeramakrishnan claims his visits were due to the large number of friends he has in the Gulf countries.