In a major embarrassment for the ruling CPM and CM Vijayan, National Investigation Agency has summoned controversial minister KT Jaleel for interrogation in connection with the gold smuggling scam. He is being grilled by the NIA at its office in Kochi.
According to sources, the NIA team is questioning Jaleel to get more details about his links with Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the Kerala gold smuggling scam. He was also asked questions about copies of the Quran he received from the UAE consulate. The Opposition parties had earlier alleged that the Quran packets contained smuggled gold. Jaleel is Minister for Higher Education, Welfare of Minorities, Wakf and Hajj.
Earlier, Jaleel was interrogated by the Enforcement Department at least twice. ED also took statements on protocol violation pertaining to gold smuggling. According to the ED officials, Minister Jaleel was also asked upon his connections with the accused of gold smuggling case. The case is being probed by the NIA, Enforcement Directorate and the Customs department.
The matter had come to light after 30 kg gold worth Rs 14.82 crores smuggled in a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic baggage was busted by the Customs in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5. The minister was reportedly asked about the arrival and distribution of religious texts from abroad through diplomatic baggage and his links with gold smuggling case accused, Swapna Suresh.
The accused minister had facilitated the transport of the Quran parcels from Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to C-Apt (Kerala State Centre for Advanced Printing & Training) presided by him. The UAE however has categorically stated that it does not export the Quran through its Consulate.
Customs documents do show that 250 packages reached the airport on March 6, 2020; UAE Consulate is the consignee as per the document. "Islamic Affairs And Charitable Act, P.O.B. No: 3135, Dubai' was the consignor. Bundles bore the label, "Holy Quran Diplomatic Cargo". Rs 895,800 is the cost of the consignment as per the document and weight is 4479 kgs. And, the bundles reached C-Apt only on June 26. And, only 32 bundles reached C-Apt, its employees told during the Customs interrogation; the same quantity of 32 bundles had been transported to Edappal from there (C-Apt).
K.T. Jaleel has admitted that bundles were taken to Edappal in Malappuram district in C-Apt vehicle. But, after the inquiry, it was revealed that a C-Apt vehicle went to Bengaluru and returned from there only after a week.
The call data records of KT Jaleel and Swapna Suresh, one of the accused in the Gold Smuggling Scam, showed that the minister was in close contact with the latter. Jaleel had claimed that he spoke to Swapna only about distribution of ‘Ramzan food kits’ from the UAE consulate.
Meanwhile, the BJP has intensified protests across the state, demanding the sacking of Jaleel over his involvement in the gold smuggling case. However, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday extended his support to Jaleel and stated that there is no need for Jaleel to quit over the incident as the allegations are fabricated.