Kochi: The Kerala LDF government, suffered a blow when the Kerala High Court on Friday quashed the two FIRs registered by the state police against Enforcement Directorate officials on the allegation that the latter forced key accused in the gold smuggling case to give statements against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The High Court while quashing the FIRs, held that instead of filing a case against the ED, the police should have approached the Special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) Court, which is considering the cases related to the smuggling of gold and the change of hands of the money involved. The grievance of the police being that the ED was fabricating evidence, the proper authority of remedy was the Special Court.
Justice VG Arun, whose bench considered the two pleas filed by Deputy Director of ED, Kochi Zone P Radhakrishnan, also directed the investigating officer to submit all information gathered in the matter to the PMLA court in a sealed cover.
The petitions challenged the two FIRs registered by the crime branch on the basis of an alleged audio clip by gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh alleging she was coerced to implicate the Chief Minister in the case and a similar allegation from a letter, allegedly written by her co-accused in the smuggling–Sandeep Nair.
In a petition, the ED had alleged that one of the FIRs was registered against its unnamed officials with "ulterior motive of derailing the statutory investigation" under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) into a large economic offence of smuggling of huge quantities of gold.
The ED had prayed that the FIR be quashed or the probe be transferred from the state police to the CBI to ensure an impartial investigation, "because certain highly placed persons are involved in the case."
It had also submitted that the preliminary inquiry allegedly conducted by the state police was clearly a farce.
The Crime Branch had registered the first case on March 17 on the basis of a report filed by its team which was probing the leak of a voice clip, purportedly belonging to Swapna.
According to the FIR, the ED officials probing the gold smuggling case while questioning Swapna Suresh on August 12 and 13, 2020, forced her to give false statements against the chief minister in order to fabricate evidence.
Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate. is the prime accused in the case relating to the smuggling of 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore in a diplomatic baggage and now under judicial custody since her arrest.
In a voice clip purported to be that of Swapna circulated a few months ago, it was alleged that some ED officials had threatened her while she was being interrogated at the agency office in Kochi in August 2020 to give statements against Vijayan and some ministers.
Later, two women civil police officers, who had been with the accused Swapna when she was questioned by the ED, also reportedly claimed they had heard the ED officials forcing her to name Vijayan.
Besides the ED,the Customs and the National Investigation Agency are also probing the smuggling of gold through the diplomatic channel.
(Based on PTI feed)