Fire erupts in dept holding files of Kerala gold smuggling case

The National Investigation Agency, which is probing the controversial gold smuggling case, had recently visited the Secretariat as part of collecting details in the case.

Thiruvanathapuram: A fire broke out in the protocol section of the Kerala Secretariat which contains sensitive files including those of the UAE consulate gold smuggling case, on Tuesday evening around 5 PM.

Some files are reported to have been destroyed. Due to COVID restrictions, only two employees were present in the office at that time. The fire was doused within 15 minutes with the help of the Fire and Rescue Department.

Opposition allege sabotage

The opposition parties have alleged that the fire was no accident and it was a deliberate conspiracy to destroy evidence related to the gold smuggling case.

The allegations come after the National Investigation Agency, which is probing the controversial gold smuggling case, had recently visited the Secretariat as part of collecting details in the case. The NIA had earlier sought information from the Protocol Office, regarding the controversy surrounding Minister KT Jaleel accepting gifts from the UAE Consulate office in Thiruvananthapuram.

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“Some files have been destroyed. It is mainly printed gazetted papers and then there are some other files, too. Preliminary analysis is that an electric short-circuit caused the fire,” said an official from the fire and rescue department. He also said that there was a huge smoke cloud and officials had to go in wearing breathing apparatus.

BJP state party chief K Surendran rushed to the Secretariat. As he was addressing the media, Kerala Chief Secretary Viswas Mehta came out of the building, asking media persons and others to leave the Secretariat premises.

The police later removed Surendran and others from the premises. “I came here seeing the news, as a public worker, hearing that files in the Protocol office have been destroyed in the fire,” he said.

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“I was in a meeting when I got the information about the fire. I was informed that it was a minor fire and taken care of. But how can we allow political people to come inside the hall and preach? If we allow that, next time, they will enter my office or Chief Minister’s office,” Viswas Mehta said, losing his cool.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and other prominent leaders of the Congress have also rushed to the Secretariat alleging sabotage to cover-up misdeeds in the gold smuggling case. BJP, Congress and Muslim League are currently protesting in the secretariat.

“We want to see what is happening inside, what has been burnt down? Does this government think they can do anything and get away with it?” asked Ramesh Chennithala.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) probing the gold smuggling case had sought the CCTV visuals of the last one year but the government is yet to submit it.

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