Kochi: Two days after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan gave a clean chit to State Higher Education Minister K. T.Jaleel in the Kerala gold smuggling case, the latter appeared before the NIA probe team on Thursday. And, the opposition was quick to intensify its demand for Jaleel’s resignation.
Jaleel has already been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
He arrived at the NIA office around 6 a.m. in the vehicle of a former CPI-M Legislator and the police had cordoned off the entire area.
Incidentally, it was IANS which broke the news on Tuesday, that as part of widening its probe into the Kerala gold smuggling case, the NIA is all set to question Jaleel in the next two days.
“We will record the statement of Jaleel in the Kerala gold smuggling case,” a senior NIA official had told IANS.
The NIA official also said that the anti-terror probe agency is going through the digital evidence it collected so far from Swapna Suresh, the kingpin in the case, which points fingers to some VIPs.
The official clarified that Jaleel is not named in the case, but the agency wanted to question him to know if there was any gold smuggling activity under the guise of distribution of religious texts.
Jaleel himself when the news first surfaced, said that it was the UAE Consulate which sought his help to distribute Holy Quran and he did only that.
For the past six days, ever since reports surfaced that Jaleel was questioned by the ED, the opposition parties have been vehemently demanding his resignation.
Vijayan, however, seems to have feigned ignorance of what was happening and has gone on record to say that he was not having any clue as to what wrong has Jaleel done, and there was no reason for him to quit.
Reacting to the fresh turn of events, leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said time is up for Jaleel and he has no other option but to quit.
“The NIA is the agency that looks into terror related cases and Jaleel, instead of getting more shamed, should quit. Vijayan is now worried as he fears he will also be questioned. This act of questioning should not be seen lightly,” said Chennithala.
State BJP president K. Surendran said Jaleel’s position is weakening by every moment as both the ED and the NIA are after him.
“Vijayan is scared. He is worried that he too may be investigated or his other other ministers also may be probed. Jaleel has to quit,” said Surendran.
The gold smuggling case was unearthed when P.S. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, was arrested by the Customs on July 5 when he was facilitating smuggling of 30 kg gold in diplomatic baggage to the state capital from Dubai.
Things turned murkier when the name of Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the Consulate and later employed with the IT Department, surfaced. Later, her links with the now-suspended IAS officer M. Sivasankar, then posted as Principal secretary to Vijayan and also the IT Secretary, came to light.