M K Madhusoodan
The multi-crore gold smuggling case in a fake diplomatic baggage of United Arab Emirates (UAE) is becoming murkier day after day. The highly confidential investigation has also shaken the Left Democrat (LDF) government, entire bureaucracy, state police set up, and legislators of CPM and CPI parties, alliance partners in LDF government. The whole episode following the seizure of over Rs.30 crore gold concealed in a merchandise addressed to the Consulate of UAE in Tiruvananthapuram has got all ingredients of a well-scripted and researched cinema screenplay. A couple of days after July 5 when the baggage was intercepted at Tiruvananthapuram Airport one of the Principal Secretary M Shivashankran heading Information Technology ministry under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was unceremoniously asked to go on leave and later suspended. The IAS officer M Shivashankaran was identified as close confidante or alter ego of Chief Minister, but his mistake was his intimacy with the prime accused in gold smuggling Swapna Suresh, an school drop-out who changed her name as Mumtaz Ismail. Mumtaz was living in UAE for long and had earlier served as a staff in baggage handling in airports and became close to IAS officer, while she was reportedly working as a contract staff at the UAE Consulate. Her intimacy with Consulate officials landed her a job in consulate. Late she became close to Shivashankaran who got her posting in IT ministry as a contract employee. The opportunity to enter portals of Government Secretariat was a blessing for her and her associates to start her smuggling business without much trouble. As UAE attaché was close to her she slowly strengthened her smuggling racket which had many jewellers and businessmen as her partners in the billegal business. The Attache had since fled Indi and UAE government is investigating the smuggling case from their side. Surprisingly, the roleof Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who had undeniably close to Mumtaz was suspected to be instrumental for her escape from Tiruvananthapuram to Bengaluru after Customs officials tried to take her into custody. Her escape from Kerala also strengthened speculation of her connection with Kerala Chief Minister’s daughter Veena. Mumtaz stayed in a hotel in Bengaluru, close to Veena’s IT company. The suspicion on Veena and her investment into multi-crore software company and investments into real estate by Mumtaz and financing in films by hone of the couriers of smuggled gold has invited the entry of Enforcement Directorate as money laundering provisions were slapped in the case. Incidentally, Mumtaz had two laptops and six mobile phones and the Customs officials collected information stored in these devises. As things became murkier and a widespread public outcry on corruption and nepotism by LDF government, the government has removed all personal staff of ministers, while a surveillance was strengthened on various staff working at Government Secretariat, the power centre of Kerala Government. It was also found that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s car which he used as CPM party secretary soon before he became chief minister, was used by Mumtaz for her escape from Kerala to Bengaluru. The car was sold to a businessman close to the Chief Minister. In a drama unfolding, the gunman of Consulate Attache, on deputation from Kerala Armed Police Force, attempted to commit suicide. It was found that gunman was deployed by Mumtaz to take delivery of smuggled gold from airport. Another controversy broke out when Kerala Higher Edecation Minister K T Jaleel in a press briefing confessed that he took delivery of food materials from Consulate to be distributed topoor in Kerala during Ramzan. This open voluntary statement loaded more fire power to the Opposition Arsenal. The state government did not take prior sanction from Union Ministry to accept gifts from a foreign country. The main courier from UAE, who regularly despatched gold, Faisal Fareed, owns a gold jewellery in Kerala. The jewellery was raided by Customs among others is being deported to India. He is suspected to have financed for producing four Malayalam movies and acted in one of them. Mumtaz and her associates now in custody confessed that they were involved in as many as 23 consignments pf gold from UAE to India. There are strong suspicion that a group of jewellers and businessmen pooled money. The Crores thus collected through pooling was pumped through Hawala Transaction to purchase gold. Interestingly, Customs also seized gold jewellery and later sealed it. Ironically, the unaccounted gold from this jewellery and most smuggled gold consignment reached Kerala from UAE through Karippur airport, in Kozhikode.