Kerala Speaker checkmates Customs move to quiz staff

Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala Speaker Sreeramakrishnan, who is on the radar of Customs in the gold smuggling and havala deal case, has checkmated the central agency by blocking its bid to question his assistant private secretary K Ayyappan.

Ayyappan was asked to appear in the Customs office in Kochi on Wednesday, but he conveyed his inability citing preparations for the upcoming budget session.

Ayyappan had ignored another Customs notice on Tuesday on the ground he had only been informed on phone and was not served a notice. It is in this context Speaker Sreeramakrishnan has taken things in his own hands and told Customs through the assembly secretary his secretary can be quizzed only with nod from the Speaker’s office.

The Speaker’s contention is he has ultimate authority over the affairs of the assembly and the secretariat, so his permission is required to summon or question anybody under his jurisdiction.

Ayyappan’s questioning was seen as the forerunner to the questioning of the Speaker himself, the prospects of which now appear to be in doubt as Sreeramakrishnan has hardened his stand against the central agency.

Customs had apparently decided to question the Speaker following statements made by prime accused Swapna Suresh and Sarith under oath in a court Sreeramakrishnan had call­ed them to a flat and handed over a bag full of dollars to be given to the UAE mission.

Customs has been collecting details of the Speaker’s frequent foreign tours, during which he is alleged to have met Swapna. Sreeramakrishnan had earlier acknowledged he had closely known her. Customs move to summon the Speaker followed the court expressing shock over the revelations by the suspects about the involvement of a constitutional body in the clandestine operation and water the agency to reach the bottom. It is believed the Customs began action after consultations in Delhi and Speaker’s stand would be in a confrontation.

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