Customs may question Kerala Speaker in forex smuggling case


CUSTOMS DEPARTMENT would question Kerala Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan and a few other top functionaries of the state government in connection with a case pertaining to smuggling foreign exchange out of the country, sources told The Indian Express on Friday. This came a day after the Speaker denied any wrongdoing and defended his conduct in public life.

While probing into a case related to smuggling of gold through diplomatic cargo channel to the UAE Consulate, the central agency found that two of the accused – Swapna Suresh and P S Sarith – allegedly indulged in smuggling US dollars out of the country, the sources said. The Speaker would be questioned on the basis of statements the two accused gave to the magistrate court under Section 164 of CrPC.

“Their statements contain the names of several senior government functionaries, including the Speaker and a few ministers. They have mentioned illegal activities in their statements. But we are looking into only those issues that come under the purview of the Customs Act,” a source in the agency said.

Customs officials said they have not decided when they would issue a notice to Sreeramakrishnan to record his statement. “There are no legal hurdles for questioning the Speaker. We want to hear what the Speaker has to say about the deposition of the accused persons,” an official said.

On Friday, the Customs questioned the Speaker’s assistant private secretary K Ayyappan at its Kochi office for nearly nine hours in connection with the case. “Ayyappan had been in touch with both Swapna and Sarith. He had made calls to both on certain days,” a source alleged. But officials said questioning of the Speaker’s personal staff was not very fruitful as “Ayyappan appeared tutored by someone

“He turned up for questioning after leaving his mobile phone in Thiruvananthapuram,” an official said.

The Opposition has given a notice for a resolution seeking removal of the Speaker over the case. But denying any wrongdoing, Sreeramakrishnan on Thursday told reporters, “I have been a public figure for the past 40 years. Throughout these years, I haven’t faced allegations of even a single rupee. I am sure that I haven’t committed any mistake. So, I am least afraid about the controversies. I don’t think that I would be summoned by the Customs.”

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