With the two weeks for the Assembly polls, a new allegation has surfaced in the gold smuggling case, posing a new challenge for the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government. Kerala Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan has been named by two of the accused in the controversial gold smuggling case — Sarith PS and Swapna Suresh — in their statement to the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
While Sarith alleged the Speaker gave him a bag to hand over to the Consul General, Swapna alleged that Sreeramakrishnan was planning to start Middle East College in Sharjah, UAE. Some of these allegations had surfaced in January 2021 as well.
In the statement, which the ED submitted in Kerala High Court, Sarith PS alleged that Kerala Speaker had handed over currency bundles reportedly to Consul General of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. Incidentally, the Customs department had summoned the CPI(M) leader to appear before it on March 12 in the dollar smuggling case. In an earlier statement on March 5 this year, Swapna Suresh had alleged that smuggling of foriegn currency was at the instance of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Sreeramakrishnan and other ministers. However, earlier this month, a Civil Police Officer on duty while Swapna was questioned by the ED had revealed that the agency pressurised Swapna Suresh to give a statement against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
According to Sarith’s statement, in January 2020, Speaker Sreeramakrishnan had contacted him and Swapna, inviting them to one of his relative’s apartment in Thiruvananthapuram and handed over a bag containing money. In his statement, Sarith alleged that the money was meant for ‘His Excellency’, presumably the ‘UAE Consul General’ or any official in the consulate. Sarith made the statement when ED officials asked him if he was aware of the involvement of any other high profile personalities in exporting foreign currency.
Although he names the Kerala Speaker, stating that he gave a bag containing currency to ‘His Excellency’, he did not specify if it was foreign currencies. “The colour of the bag was light brown and the letters ‘SRK’ (presumably Sreeramakrishnan) were written on it,” the statement read.
The statement further added that after the meeting with Speaker, Sarith, along with Swapna and her husband, dropped him at his official residence, and then Sarith alone went to the ‘residence of his excellency at Kowdiar’. “In his residence, I removed the bundle from the bag as the bag (was) meant for us. At that point, I noticed that the content of the bundle is currency notes. There should be a minimum of 10 bundles of currency notes in that. As instructed by Shri P Sreerama Krishnan, I handed over the bundle to His Excellency at his residence,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, a statement of Swapna Suresh, which the ED submitted in court, has also named the Kerala Assembly Speaker, stating that the Minister had shared with her his plans to start a Middle East College in Sharjah. For this, Swapna alleged, the Speaker had requested the Ruler of Sharjah to provide a tract of land for its construction. As per the ED, Swapna gave the statement when ED interrogated her about her WhatsApp chats with the suspended IAS officer, M Sivasankar.
As per the statement, Speaker Sreeramakrishnan has an investment in Middle East College in Oman, which is owned by Lafeer, a Ponnani native residing in the Gulf country. They allegedly wanted to start the institution in UAE’s Sharjah as well. She further alleged that Sreeramakrishnan had met with the Ruler of Sharjah at Hotel Leela Palace in Kovalam during the latter’s visit to Kerala and that he had verbally agreed to provide land for the construction of the institution.
After the ED statements came out to the media, Speaker Sreeramakrishnan reacted to the media stating that the allegations are baseless.
The Speaker was earlier accused of having close connections with Swapna Suresh. However, he responded by saying that he knew her as a staff member of the UAE Consulate and that he attended some events based on her invites. In January this year, the Speaker’s additional personal secretary K Ayyappan was summoned by the ED in the gold smuggling case.