Kasaragod gold scam: Despite protests, complaints and cases, no semblance of justice

As the controversy began to tarnish the party’s image in its strong bastions in North Malabar, IUML initiated face-saving exercises by privately trying to settle the cases against them.
Gold scam
Gold scam

It has been almost a month since the Kerala police registered a cheating case against some Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leaders from Kasaragod, including Manjeswaram MLA M C Khamarudheen and spiritual leader T K Pookkoya Thangal, for their involvement in a jewellery deposit scam. Apart from the political blame game, no major breakthroughs have happened in the case during the period and this has dwindled the hopes of hundreds of the scam victims.

In 2006, MLA Kamarudheen, along with others, started a jewellery company called Fashion Gold International, which was registered in Cheruvathoor, Kasaragod. Khamarduheen was the chairman and Pookoya Thangal, who is also a district committee member of IUML, was the director of the company. Within six years, three more gold jewellery companies were formed under the same address. It is estimated that the companies have raised a fund of around Rs 140 crore from more than 750 persons, majority of them being Muslim League supporters and their relatives.

The jewellery showrooms, however, were closed down in December 2019, and Kamarudheen and Pookoya Thangal failed to return the deposits to investors. About 749 investors are yet to get their money back.

Accused yet to be taken into custody or questioned

The Kerala police registered a case on August 27 this year when there was an influx of complaints from the investors. Seventy-eight cases were registered against the jewellery company owners at various police stations. Six more cases were registered recently, taking the total number of cases to 84 — 12 cases at Payannur police station in Kannur, 58 cases at Chanthera police station in Kasargod and 14 cases at the Kasargod police station. 

There were reports in the initial stage of the investigation that the special investigation team (SIT) of Kerala police, led by Kasaragod police chief Shilpa Dyavaiah, would interrogate Kamarudheen and Pookkoya Thangal. But, the accused are yet to be interrogated. 

On October 1, the Kozhikode regional office of Enforcement Directorate (ED) also initiated an inquiry-based on the cheating cases registered by the Kerala police.  

Though left-wing organisations under the banner of the ruling LDF are staging protests across the district, demanding the arrest of the accused. Yet, there has been no major effort from the part of the police to take the accused into custody. BJP is alleging that the protest by the LDF is merely an eyewash and that the MLA has got assurance from the local CPI(M) leaders that he would not be arrested.

Futile face-saving exercises

As the controversy began to tarnish the party’s image in its strong bastions in North Malabar, IUML initiated face-saving exercises by privately trying to settle the cases against them. But, the CPI(M) and BJP alleged that the efforts are unlikely to yield desired results as the value of the company’s assets is not tantamount to the amount owed to investors. They also alleged that the party leaders, who headed the company, had transferred their properties to proxies anticipating the collapse of the company, worsened the predicament of the complainants.

After the controversy over Kasaragod gold jewellery scam erupted in August, IUML on September 11 asked Mahin Kallatra, its district treasurer, to prepare a status report on how much the company owes the depositors, and whether the company is in a position to return the money before September 30. 

Mahin told TNM that he submitted the report to Hyderali Thangal, PK Kunhalikkuty and KPA Majeed. The report has recommended settling the case by returning the investment amount to each complainant. The state general secretary of the party, KPA Majeed, reiterated that returning the money is the only solution and that the party will take proper steps to settle all the amount within six months, without taking the assets of the company into account.

Political consequences 

It is being observed that the controversy over the investment scam will cast a shadow over the political future of Kamarudheen, who has an image of being a hardworking politician at the grass-roots level. The Muslim League wouldn’t be hoping for a recurrence of the 2016 Assembly election victory in the upcoming Assembly election in the backdrop of the controversy over the gold investment scam.  

Manjwesram Assembly constituency is a strong bastion of the Muslim League. Kasaragod Assembly constituency, where the majority of cases in the gold scam are registered, is also a stronghold of IUML as the party candidates have been winning the seat since 1977. 

As a majority of the complainants of the cheating case are Muslim League sympathisers, the CPI(M) might not aim for an easy settlement of the cases. Instead, the Left party may focus on keeping the issue as a hot topic of discussion until the Assembly election next year.

VPP Musthafa, the district secretariat member of CPI(M), said that the party will restart the protests once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased further. “We will give legal support to all complainants and they can approach the court if the Muslim League leadership will not return their investment. We don’t think that the company has enough assets to return the investment, as the showrooms have already closed down and the properties were sold,” he said.

However, according to K Sreekanth, the district president of BJP, the ruling Left Democratic Front, led by the CPI(M), is trying to save the MLA by delaying the arrest. “More than 70 cases were registered against Kamarudheen and others. Only a detailed police investigation will throw light into the business transactions of the company and its office-bearers. But the police are still not ready to interrogate the accused. The CPI(M) and Muslim League, which are jointly ruling many panchayats in Kasaragod, are playing adjustment politics,” he said, adding that the BJP will not stop the protest until the MLA resigns. 

Meanwhile, district police chief of Kasargod, Shilpa Dyavaiah said that investigation is progressing effectively under the special team and that the police are yet to take a decision on the interrogation or custody of the accused of the case.

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