The accusing finger has been turned against the office of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a sensational gold smuggling case in which diplomatic cargo was used to sneak in 30 kg of the yellow metal.
Air Customs personnel at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport seized the gold on Sunday from a consignment meant for the UAE consulate in the city. Under the Vienna convention, diplomatic cargo enjoys immunity. The seizure suggests that there was a tip-off.
The probe took a political twist after it was found that a woman who has been tracked down as one of the main culprits is heading a prestigious project of the IT department, which is under the charge of the chief minister.
While the woman, Swapna Suresh, has been sacked, the case has given the Opposition fresh ammo to target the CM's Office. Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and others have accused the CMO of hiring Swapna for a crucial IT post despite alleged adverse police intelligence reports against her.
Demanding a CBI probe into the gold smuggling case, Chennithala and State PCC president Mullappally Ramachandran have called the CMO a fountainhead of corruption and the headquarters of a powerful mafia. State BJP president K Surendran alleged that IT Secretary Sivasankaran, who is also the principal secretary of the chief minister, had called the Customs officials in a bid to save her.
The CM rejected the charges and said his office would never shield any offender. Vijayan congratulated Customs officials for busting the case.
He also denied knowledge of Swapna's appointment in the IT department.