Thiruvananthapuram: The plot around gold smuggling kingpins Swapna Suresh and Sarith as well as Shivashankar, the former principal secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, is thickening. The latest revelation is that Swapna had functioned as an intermediary between the government of Kerala and sources in the UAE, including official circles in that country.
There have been many deals and transactions between the two sides in recent times, in which Swapna Suresh was a constant factor. These include UAE contributions for welfare measures in the state as well disaster relief measures, for which the ‘madam’ is believed to have received a share as ‘cut’.
Some of these were routed through the UAE consulate while the others were independent of the diplomatic channels. This adds a very serious dimension to the involvement of the state government, which in turn could throw light on links with Shivashankar.
The interrogations by the customs team have revealed that Swapna used her clout with the UAE authorities to settle cases involving Malayali businessmen in the country. She received large amounts of money in return for these deals.
Customs had reportedly gotten an inklings of Swapna’s deal-making operations in the first round of interrogation itself. According to reports, she told the interrogators about a sum of 1.85 lakh dollars for her efforts in this respect. She is believed to have told them that this was by way of her share in the UAE contributions for building charity houses in the state. Sarath, her co-accused in the sensational gold smuggling case, was also a partner in these deals.
Apparently, Swapna had sought Shivashankar’s help in accounting for these monies, for which he had utilised the services of his chartered accountant. Incidentally this is the same chartered accountant with whose name Swapna had opened a joint bank locker, as advised by Shivashankar. The NIA investigators had seized over Rs 1 crore and one kg gold from the locker.
The investigators have now turned their attention to track down the rest of the money and are exploring the havala and terror angles. They believe that Shivashankar would be able to offer clues with regards the money trail.
Customs is now preparing to interrogate Shivashankar for a third time. Its teams had already questioned him over two days, in addition to three rounds of questioning by the NIA, which had already indicated that he would be summoned again after more evidence is gathered. The NIA teams are also examining the footage of the CCTV at the state secretariat, where Shivashankar’s as well as the chief minister’s offices are located.
Meanwhile, the state Vigilance Commission has sought the permission of the state government to investigate Shivashankar on separate complains received from Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala and an activist in Ernakulam about irregular appointments as well as suspicious deals involving the top bureaucrat.
Chennithala has already accused the government of converting Vigilance into a pliable entity that will do the government’s bidding. But all eyes are now on whether the government grants the required permissions to investigate the man, who was widely seen as the conscience keeper of the chief minister.