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Kerala gold smuggling: HC quashes police cases against officials of ED

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Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 16: In a jolt to the CPI(M)-led LDF government, the Kerala High Court today scrapped the two FIRs registered by the state police against Enforcement Directorate officials for allegedly forcing key accused in the gold smuggling case to give statements against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Kerala gold smuggling: HC quashes police cases against officials of ED

Scrapping the police cases or FIRs, the high court held that police should have approached the Special PMLA Court, which is considering the cases related to the money trail in the gold smuggling, seeking remedy to their grievances that the ED officials were fabricating evidences.

The court also directed the investigating officer to submit all information gathered in the matter to the PMLA court in a sealed cover.

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Justice VG Arun pronounced judgment in two pleas filed by Deputy Director of ED Kochi Zone, P Radhakrishnan.

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 Enforcement Directorate or 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 appealed 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 Suresh.

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.

The Crime Branch case was registered under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 167 (public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 192 (fabricating false evidence), 195-A (threatening any person to give false evidence), among others, of the Indian Penal Code.

Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate in Kochi, is the prime accused in the case relating to the smuggling of 30 kg of gold worth ₹ 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 Suresh 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 Suresh when she was questioned by the ED, also reportedly claimed they had heard the ED officials forcing her to name Pinarayi Vijayan.

Besides the ED,the Customs and the National Investigation Agency are also probing the smuggling of gold through the diplomatic channel.

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