Kerala Gold Smuggling: 'Leaked' Audio Spurs Allegations of ED Bid to Coerce Testimony Against CM

The CPI(M) has been alleging that the central agency is being used to destabilise the state government.

New Delhi: A ‘leaked’ audio recording of a phone conversation purportedly between accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case Swapna Suresh and an anonymous person has created a controversy. According to The Hindu, the recording indicates that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) may have been trying to coerce Suresh into testifying against chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

According to the newspaper, the recording surfaced on Wednesday and suggests that the ED was asking Suresh to turn approver – with the condition that she accused Vijayan and his principal secretary M. Sivasankar of wrongdoing.

The Indian Express reports that in the clip, Swapna is purportedly heard saying that she will be made an approver if she says that she went to the UAE with Sivasankar, who was representing the chief minister. She also says that “they” (ED officials) did not allow her to read her own statement, and simply scrolled through it before making her sign.

Suresh and Sivasankar are both currently in custody in the gold smuggling case. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) has been alleging that the ED is using the case to try and implicate the chief minister. Sivasankar, who was denied bail earlier this week, has also alleged that he was arrested and is being kept in custody because of his refusal to depose against Vijayan.

Also read: As ED Chief Gets One-Year Extension, Here’s a List of Cases He’s Probing Against Opposition Leaders

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said in a statement that the central agencies were keen to implicate the chief minister’s office in the case. The Bharatiya Janata Party, according to the CPI(M), is using the ED to destabilise the state government. The ED has denied these allegations, and also claimed that the CMO was aware of the gold smuggling operations and did nothing to stop them.

The Kerala police is reportedly probing the veracity of the recording. According to the New Indian Express, Suresh has confirmed that the recording is real, and said that the conversation took place while she was in the custody of investigating officers and not in jail.

The BJP and the Congress have said that the leaked audio is an attempt by the government to scuttle the investigation. Union minister of state for external affairs said the tape was an attempt by the “sleazy” Vijayan government to play victim before the local body polls. “The CM’s office is behind the latest development,” said Congress Kerala unit chief Mullapally Ramachandran.

In a surprising move, the Centre recently extended ED chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra’s two-year fixed term by another year. As The Wire listed out, Mishra is conducting probes on money laundering charges against a large number of opposition leaders.