Contraband Gold Scam: Vijayan’s best hope is his ex-secy. doesn’t turn hostile
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and Swapna Suresh
If I was Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, I would be a very worried man today.
My principal secretary, M. Sivasankar, has been shown to have nexus with one Swapna Suresh (see pic) who holds the answer to the mammoth gold smuggling racket now unfolding in the state.
I mean I am in final year of my term, a good four-plus years in office now, and yet have been indifferent to gold smuggling which is more popular in the state than matadors in Spain.
My customs guys tell me the gold smuggling is doubling every year, for instance, what was 251kg seized in 2018 ballooned to 540kg last year. All my airports are competing in contraband gold hauls: Calicut (232kg), Cochin (220kg), Thiruvananthapuram (209kg) and Kannur (471kg) airports have provided a windfall in just over a year.
I mean I can fret that my opposition has chosen its moment to perfection, with state elections due in a few months, and the blow-off is to hurt my brazen projection as an honest foot soldier of my equally honest party, CPI-M, why would my voters believe me? After all, they gave me just a solitary seat out of 14 contested in the 2019 General Elections. What’s left now since Kannur, the den of contraband gold, is the constituency I am identified with.
Okay, there is merit when I say that the diplomatic baggage seized with Rs 15 crore worth of gold on Sunday was a question best answered by the UAE consulate in Kerala. But how do I now backtrack when I have publicly pronounced that Swapna Suresh was an employee on “contract” with the state IT department and the Opposition releases documents showing Swapna Suresh sending invitations to dignitaries for the “Space Conclave 2020” this January?
And my principal secretary? I mean how do I convince the people that he, Sivasankar, was a duffer acting on his own whims and fancies in stealing a job for Swapna Suresh as a business development manager in the IT department and not acting on my behest? I mean he had Swapna Suresh recommended by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the job, and the state IT department asserting Swapna was a graduate when her brother has conceded that she had not even completed the state school board exams? I mean you read layers and layers of this deeply embedded scandal in this piece to have an idea of its extent.
There is little denying that lakhs of Keralites work in Dubai. And that it takes just free air-tickets to find carriers of illegal gold to India for personal use in small quantity. I mean a kilogram of gold on a person’s body, carried by some hundred willing, could bring 100kg of unaccounted gold in the God’s Own Country. The Corona pandemic has been a god-send for these enterprising. I mean you charter a plane for Rs 13-14 lakhs, put aboard dozens of distressed citizens, and bingo, the illegal gold is home.
The situation turns comical if you consider this situation: I board a Jet Airways flight from Dubai and am carrying 10kg of gold. I don’t embark at the transit airport of Delhi where a “carrier” boards the flight. We both land at Kannur airport, he picks my gold-laden bag as his own, and the parcel is home.
Still, you have incidents where dozens of people are caught carrying gold in their rectums. A nubile flight attendant hiding 13kg of contraband gold under her dress. A popular method is to melt gold into seed-shaped chips and hide it in dates; or converted into gold belt-buckles or torch batteries. Get this right: Over a thousand kilogram of gold is smuggled into India every day.
And why do you think people go to this length to smuggle gold into India? For one, 24 carat gold is negligible in India. Two, the import tariffs (12.5%) and GST (3 %) is prohibitive. Three, Indians love gold and festive seasons are boom time; Four, yes, you got it right—it’s so easy to bring contraband gold home.
Now, Vijayan’s best hope—his only hope--is that his principal secretary, now former, doesn’t point fingers at him. Centre of course is keen to get to the bottom of it, as asserted by Union minister of state, M Muraleedharan who also happens to belong to Kerala. If he could pin down Vijayan, the state could belong to him. Vijayan has a job to douse the flame leaping around him. Corona Virus and all can wait.
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