Pinarayi writes to PM Modi on Kerala gold smuggling probe, hits out at central agencies

The CM said that such a manner of investigation would lead to a ‘total loss of credibility’ of these agencies.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
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Six months after Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ask central agencies to investigate the infamous gold smuggling case, the Kerala Chief Minister has now, once again, written to the PM — this time in a scathing attack against the agencies for their ‘roving’ investigation. Pinarayi alleged that the line of investigation pursued by the central agencies particularly the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), were ‘inconsistent’ and ‘ineffective’ in nature and with “an aim to tarnish the image of the state government”.

In a letter addressed to the PM, Pinarayi stated that central agencies were holding enquiries “to find out if there is any chance to allege any offence in a situation where the agencies have not been able to find anything specific against the state government.”

The gold smuggling via diplomatic channels in the Thiruvananthapuram airport case was investigated by four agencies, namely the Customs Preventive Unit, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The probe was initiated in early July by the Customs, followed by the NIA initiating an inquiry on July 10. This was followed by the ED and the CBI.

Pinarayi alleged that ED’s inquiry which was focused on the gold smuggling case diverted to “commission and kickbacks paid by a contractor of a housing project at Thrissur’s Wadakkanchery, to some of the accused in the gold smuggling case.” The Chief Minister was referring to the ED investigating the alleged discrepancies in the LIFE Mission Project. The ED had told a special court in Kochi that arrested IAS officer M Sivasankar had shared confidential details regarding the project and a few other government projects to Swapna Suresh — a key accused in the gold smuggling case. However, the court had also asked the ED how the angle is related to the money laundering case that the ED is investigating.

The letter also criticised the CBI for invoking the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) against LIFE Mission with ‘undue haste’, based on a complaint by a Congress MLA. Pinarayi added that there was no procedural formality of conducting a preliminary investigation. And the state government’s consent was also not sought.

Pinarayi also added that the ED had ‘crossed all limits’ and issued a summons to the LIFE Mission CEO and asked him to produce all documents related to the project without being specific, which goes against principles laid out by the Supreme Court with regard to requisitioning of documents through summons, the letter adds. Besides this, the ED has also asked for “all documents of Kerala Government’s projects such as K-FON (a project to provide free internet to poorer sections of the society), Electric Vehicle Policy etc,” the letter states. The letter also states that a ‘roving’ enquiry has been initiated into the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), which funds development projects in the state.

“Instead of conducting an effective and coordinated enquiry into the gold smuggling case, the state government has been doing everything else...In a co-operative federal set up, the central investigating agencies will have to follow the contours of constitutional division of powers,” the letter stated. ‘Roving’ and ‘fishing’ “enquiries with the intention of fault finding is not within the province of the central investigating agencies,” the letter added. The CM also said that such a manner of investigation would lead to a ‘total loss of credibility’ of these agencies.

“I am bringing these facts to your kind attention for your intervention so that coercive steps are taken at least at this juncture,” the letter concluded.

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