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Gold Smuggling Case: State Moves Kerala High Court Challenging Single Judge Order Quashing FIR Against ED

Gold Smuggling Case Kerala High Court

On Wednesday (July 7,2021) the Kerala government moved  the State High Court against the single–judge bench order that quashed the two FIRs against the ED (Enforcement Director) officials in connection with the Gold Smuggling case to implicate Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The case involves the seizure of gold worth Rs. 15 Crore from the diplomatic baggage in July 2020. The public servant i.e., customs officials had found the gold during the inspection of an air cargo consignment addressed to the Consular General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram.

Two former employees of the consulate ‘Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair were found to be involved in the Gold Smuggling case. The Enforcement Director had filed a charge sheet against them in October last year.

The appeal is filed against the order dated April 16,2021, which allowed the two pleas filed by respondent P. Radhakrishnan, the Deputy Director of ED (Kochi Zone). The single bench ceased the FIRs on the ground that one accused moved the Special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) Court alleging fabrication of evidence by ED officials.

The petitioner challenged the two FIRs registered against the ED officials. The FIRs filed based on audio clips by accused Swapna Suresh and Nair who alleged that “she was pressurized to implicate the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in this case.

The state was represented by the Senior Government Pleader V Manu who stated that “Accordingly, the State preferred an appeal contending that the court should see through the smokescreen attempted to be created. It was asserted that the allegations were leveled against people in charge of the investigation of the case under PMLA and that such matters should be treated as a separate category.”

The Single bench had justified its order by stating that the “offenses alleged were in relation with the judicial proceeding.” however, the appellant submitted that the court was not restricted from taking the cognizance of matter where the allegations act were done at the time of the investigation.

The appeal read “…that the real issue was the authority, or rather the duty, of Police to register a crime when the commission of cognizable offenses was brought to its notice; that, the petitioner and other officials under PMLA had compelled and coerced the accused to give statements implicating highly placed personalities in the State Government, which was a heinous offense that needed to be unearthed and the culprits had to be brought to book,”

The writ appeal also submitted that Section 195 (1)(b)(i) of Cr.PC did not impose any legal bar on the Statutory power of the police to investigate into such offense. Additionally, it was also pointed out that given the facts and circumstances of the case, there is the possibility that offenses stated in FIRs will never reach Special Court at the time of trial.

The plea said that: “The learned single judge ought to have taken note of the fact that it was the State Crime Branch which was best placed to verify and prove whether such falsification had taken place, through what means and for what purpose.

The ED had alleged that one of the FIRs was registered against its unnamed officials with an “ulterior motive of derailing the statutory investigation” under PMLA.

Background:

Swapna Suresh is a former employee of the UAE consulate Thiruvanthapuram and is the main accused in the gold smuggling case where gold worth Rs. 14.82 crore was smuggled in the diplomatic.

A few months ago, a voice clip was out alleged that some ED officials had threatened the prime accused during the investigation to give false statements against the Chief Minister and some other minister.

Later, the two women of civil police who were with the accused Swapna Suresh also reportedly claimed they had heard that the ED officials were forcing her to name the minister and chief minister.

On this ground, the Crime Branch enrolled an FIR against the ED officials stated that while questioning Swapna Suresh on 12th and 13th August 2020, they were forcing her to give false statements against the Minister and Chief Minister to “fabricate evidence.”

The case was registered against the ED officials under any provision of IPC. This was challenged before the Single Bench of High Court by the respondent.

Case Title: State of Kerala & Ors. Vs. P. Radhakrishnan &Ors.

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