Thiruvananthapuram : With the customs department tightening the noose on the 30 kg gold smuggling case and the former PRO of the UAE consulate at Thiruvananthapuram, Sarith, under its custody, the issue is taking a new turn with the Opposition coming out against the role played by M Sivasankaran, the private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
Opposition leader and senior Congressman Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the Chief Minister's office is turning into a hub of criminal activities and demanded a CBI investigation into the same.
"The Chief Minister's Principal Secretary, A.M. Sivasankaran, is turning into a major point of all the deals taking place in the state, and the gold smuggling case is of much higher proportion and a CBI investigation is necessary for this case," Ramesh Chiennithala said on Monday.
He added, "The woman involved in the controversy, Swapna Suresh, is working in the marketing and liaison section of the Kerala IT department, which is directly under the Chief Minister. Even after intelligence reports coming out against her, how this woman is able to get such a job.
"Two important persons in the Chief Minister's office are involved in it and investigating agencies must probe this and it is for the Chief Minister to reveal whether he has any involvement with Swapna Suresha."
Meanwhile, BJP state President K. Surendran also called for the Chief Minister to reveal the relationship between his principal secretary and the woman involved in the gold smuggling case.
"The Chief Minister must reveal to the public the relationship between his principal secretary Sivasankaran and the woman, Swapna Suresh, involved in the gold smuggling case," Surendran said, adding: "How Swapna Suresh who was dismissed from the UAE consulate got a job in the IT department of the government?"
In a related development, the secretary of the association of the apartment complex where Swapna Suresh was staying, Balakrishnan Nair, said that Sivasankaran was a regular visitor at her flat.
"Swapna is living in this flat for the past five years and Sivasankaran was a regular visitor to this flat. We had to object to his late night visits as it involved booze parties and created problems to the residents," Nair said.
The UAE consulate, however, denied any involvement of its personnel in this issue and said that the person who is in custody was dismissed from the consulate much earlier.
The consulate also said that it is conducting its own investigation into the issue. State Congress chief Mullappally Ramachandran said that the Chief Minister's office is turning into a mafia den and called upon the Chief Minister to come clean on the allegations.
Meanwhile, an apparently unfazed Chief Minister refuted the allegations against his office in the gold smuggling case. "BJP state president has come out with baseless allegations against my office. The Chief Minister's office does not promote any illegal activities," Vijayan said.
"I congratulate all the officers who had apprehended the gold smuggled in diplomatic baggage and the state government will provide all the necessary support to the customs officials in this case," the Chief Minister said.
Pinarayi Vijayan also feigned ignorance as to how Swapna Suresh, who was allegedly involved in the gold smuggling case, was posted in the government IT department. "I don't know how she got the job. I will check this and inform," Vijayan said.
On Sunday, the Air Customs attached to the Thiruvananthapuram airport had made a seizure of 30 kg of gold that arrived on a cargo flight and was kept in a warehouse here for release. The baggage had arrived from Dubai and is understood to have been marked to the UAE Consulate which has its office in the heart of the capital.