One of the prime accused in Keralaâ€™s gold smuggling case of July 2020, Sandeep Nair, was released from prison on Saturday. He claimed that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had forced him to name Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, former minister KT Jaleel and former Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan in the case, prompting the CPI(M) to say it only proved their stand that there was a 'conspiracy' to target the Left party and the government.
Sandeep was released from Poojapura central jail in the evening as his detention under the COFEPOSA (Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act) has ended, his lawyer Vijayam said.
"His COFEPOSA custody ended today. Also in the dollar smuggling case he was made the sixth accused. In that case, he was given bail on October 4. Then there was a production warrant in another case and that was recalled today and he is out of jail," she told the media.
Sandeep, who was arrested in July last year, along with another accused, told reporters after his release that the ED tried to bring in politics in the case by forcing him to name many people, including Bineesh Kodiyeri, the son of former CPI(M) party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, to secure his release.
"The ED tried to bring politics in this matter. They forced me to tell the names of many people, including the Chief Minister, former minister K T Jaleel, former Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan, former IT Principal Secretary Sivasankar, Bineesh Kodiyeri among others," Sandeep said.
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told the media at a separate press conference that Sandeepâ€™s revelations are of a serious nature and proves the stand of the CPI(M) that there was a 'conspiracy' behind the case, targeting the Left party and the government.
"It's a serious matter. This came out earlier also. Now that he has repeated his allegation, the matter is a serious one now. The court should examine it. This proves our stand that there was a conspiracy targeting the ruling Left government," Kodiyeri said.
Sandeep had in March this year written to the Ernakulam Sessions court that he was being pressured by the investigating agency to name the political top brass in the state in order to secure bail in the case.
The gold smuggling case was a major political controversy when the Left government had come under a lot of attack by the Opposition Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Customs Commissionerate (Preventive), Cochin had registered a case relating to the seizure of 30.245 kg of 24 karat gold worth Rs 14.82 crore at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport on July 5 last year. The gold was camouflaged as diplomatic baggage to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Consulate, which has immunity from checking at the airport, as per the Vienna convention.
The agency has said that the consignment was to be received by Sarith, the first accused in the case, who had worked in UAE Consulate earlier as Public Relations Officer, in complicity with Swapna Prabha Suresh, who was the secretary of the Consul General of the UAE, Sandeep Nair and others.
The Kerala High Court had on October 8 set aside the preventive detention imposed on Swapna, another prime accused in the case, under the COFEPOSA. However, she will continue to remain in jail as she has not secured bail in the case registered by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).