Thiruvananthapuram: The ongoing probe by Customs and the NIA in the now controversial gold smuggling case, in which even the office of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is allegedly involved, has revealed it was crowdfunding — the primary source of funds in gold smuggling.
The Customs on Thursday arrested two more people who have been identified as those behind financing the buying of gold.
The entire money required to buy gold is transferred through hawala to the UAE.
The case which has large scale ramifications across sectors first surfaced when P.S. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate, here was arrested by the Customs on July 5 when he was facilitating the smuggling of 30 kg gold in diplomatic baggage to Thiruvananthapuram from Dubai.
It turned murkier when the name of Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE Consulate, here and employed with the IT Department, surfaced and it turned the full circle when her links with the principal secretary of Vijayan – M. Sivasankar, who is also the State IT Secretary, were revealed.
First Swapna was booted out, and then Vijayan quickly removed Sivasankar from both the posts. Still, it was not enough as the Congress and the BJP went full throttle demanding the suspension of Sivasankar and the resignation of Vijayan.
The Centre also stepped in and the NIA was asked to probe the case, even as the Customs is already on it.
A day after NIA was put into service, Swapna and her friend Sandeep were taken into custody from Bengaluru and are presently under judicial custody.
It was after that the probe went into high gear and the Customs have by now completed a nine-hour grilling of Sivasankar. In contrast, the NIA have got vital leads after questioning Swapna, Sandeep, Sarith and Rameez; all were arrested.
It was the leads, which led to the modus operandi of the operations and according to the Customs, the gold smuggling gangs consist of several layers and include financiers, here – who raise the money to buy gold from the Middle East.
Then there is another section which transports it to the various end-users – which are the jewellers in the state, and the vital clogs are those who coordinate the entire operations with precision.
At the end of the successful operation, everyone involved gets their due share and Customs have now found out this particular gang in June alone has smuggled 70 kg of gold on three different occasions.
Swapna and Sarith are carriers and using their closeness which was built up when the duo worked at the UAE Consulate, and her close links with Sivasankar also came as a boon.
According to the Customs, it has got vital evidence, the way Swapna functioned on July 5, the present smuggling attempt, which failed.
Her mobile was located in the tower where the entire operations were carried out from a flat, which is next door to the State Secretariat.
Another casualty attached to Vijayan — Arun Balachandran, a former IT fellow of Vijayan and now works in the IT department, who though claims he has nothing to do with it, other than arranging a flat on the directions of Sivasankar, has been now removed from his present post.
Now all eyes are on the Customs who is all set to call Sivasankar again, as his mobile phone has already been confiscated and sent for scientific examination.
The NIA is also expected to call in Sivasankar, and as. When it happens, all the preliminary links would be established to reign in the fledging gold smuggling racket, but this is the first time, where higher-ups directly or indirectly appeared to have a role.