NEW DELHI: The Kerala government has opposed the Enforcement Directorate’s plea seeking to transfer a gold smuggling case to Karnataka and said that the probe agency’s plea was to tarnish the government of Kerala by raising baseless allegations.
The Kerala government, in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, submitted that after having completed the investigation and collection of evidence and submission of a supplementary complaint, the prosecuting agency ED cannot seek transfer of the PMLA case to another state merely on the ground of alleged interference in the investigation by state police.
The affidavit said that ED’s application seeking the transfer for the PMLA case to another state is with the ulterior motive to tarnish the government of Kerala by raising baseless allegations.
The Kerala government has filed the affidavit in response to the ED plea seeking the transfer of the case from one state to another as it submitted that the petitioner has not made any case for transferring the trial of the case pending before the Special Court for PMLA cases, Ernakulum to the state of Karnataka.
The Kerala government submitted that the averments in the Transfer Petition are imaginary apprehensions and grounds are based on surmises and conjectures. The ED submitted that there are no genuine reasons stated in the Transfer Petition for transferring the trial of the case from Kerala to Karnataka.
The Kerala government submitted that the petitioner has not established with any kind of material that the state police and the government of Kerala have interfered with or hindered the investigation carried out by the Enforcement Directorate. The state government further submitted that there has not been a single incident in which the investigating officers of the Enforcement Directorate were prevented from discharging their duties.
Kerala submitted that in the instant case, the petitioner has not placed any material to justify that a fair trial is not possible in the state apart from relying on conjectures and surmises and urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the ED’s transfer petition. “It is submitted that transfer is sought on the ground of impossibility of fair trial by a prosecuting agency without any materials at all is liable to be dismissed,” the affidavit said.
The Enforcement Directorate had filed a plea seeking to transfer of trial in the case pending, before the Special Court for PMLA Cases, Ernakulam to a Special Court for hearing PMLA cases in Karnataka.
In the petition preferred by the Directorate of Enforcement, the agency sought transfer of the trial on the ground that the respondents are being influenced and intimidated through threats and false cases by senior officials of the Kerala police and the state government at the behest of the other respondent, in order to thwart and derail the trial and thereby protect certain powerful individuals holding important positions in government who are involved in the case.
In 2020, the Customs Commissionerate (Preventive), Cochin had registered against Sarith P S, former PRO at UAE Consulate, Swapna Prabha Suresh, former Secretary to Consul General of UAE Consulate, Sandeep Nair and others relating to the seizure of 30 kg of 24 karat gold worth Rs 14.82 crore at Trivandrum International Airport which was camouflaged as diplomatic baggage to UAE Consulate which is immune to checking at the airport as per the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
This seizure was only the tip of the iceberg and there were 21 such consignments of gold which was smuggled into India, which runs to more than Rs. 80 crore.
Thereafter, a case had been registered by the National Investigation Agency under Sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 against the three individuals on July 10 2020. Both offences registered by NIA and the Customs have scheduled offences under the PMLA, 2002.
The ED also stressed that based on the case registered by the NIA, an Enforcement case was recorded on July 13 2020 by the Enforcement Directorate. The ED submitted that during investigation under PMLA, it was revealed that the accused persons had committed the offence of money laundering and therefore a Prosecution Complaint was filed before the Special Court (PMLA), Ernakulam on October 6 2020.
Thereafter, a supplementary Prosecution Complaint was filed u/s 45 of PMLA, 2002 before the Special Court under PMLA, Ernakulam, against M Sivasankar on December 24, 2020, arraigning him in the complaint. The Trial in the case is presently ongoing before the Special Court for PMLA cases, Ernakulam.
Due to the involvement of powerful persons in the State of Kerala, from the very beginning, there has been a concerted effort by the state machinery to thwart and derail the investigation and the proceedings, ED said. The ED said it has preferred the present petition because the Kerala police, at the behest of a highly influential accused, is trying to subvert and derail the investigation under PMLA and important persons are being pressured to retract statements.
The ED added, “If the trial is continued in the state of Kerala, the highly influential accused persons will create hurdles and also the co-accused would be pressured and threatened to make false allegations and to make false evidence and thereby derail the ongoing investigation and trial.”(ANI)