A Palakkad-based non-governmental organization (NGO), High Range Rural Development Society (HRDS), on Wednesday terminated the services of Kerala gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh, alleging harassment by government agencies.
Swapna, who was released on bail in a gold smuggling case, was appointed director of the NGO’s Women Empowerment Program in February this year. The HRDS office in Palakkad was the main venue for his frequent interactions with the media.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had told the state assembly last week that the Sangh Parivar-backed NGO was protecting her and paying all her expenses instead of criticizing the government.
HRDS said she was forced to terminate her service due to constant pressure from government agencies. “Officials often visit the office and start questioning the employees, even cleaning workers were not spared. Our work started getting affected so we had no other option,” HRDS Vice President Joy Mathew said.
Since he became an employee four months ago, HRDS has been hounded by the police, revenue, vigilance and other agencies and its employees are often questioned, he said. Another official said HRDS was quite unhappy with the way the company’s letterhead was used to send a letter to the prime minister demanding a central agency probe into its allegations against the chief minister.
He had leveled serious allegations against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his family members after recording his confidential statement under Section 164 of the CrPC last month. They alleged that they were aware of gold smuggling and money transfer through the UAE consulate in the state capital. The police later registered a conspiracy case against her and formed a special investigation team.
Swapna said that HRDS officials were under tremendous pressure to boot her out and expected her dismissal. “It was expected. I will continue my fight. I will stick to whatever I say,” she said in Kochi.
The gold smuggling case came to light on July 5, 2020, when customs seized 30 kg of gold hidden in bathroom fittings disguised as diplomatic baggage on arrival at the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. PS Sarit, a former employee of the consulate who had come to receive the goods, was arrested the same day and a week later the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Swapna Suresh and her accomplice Sandeep Nair from Bangalore. Three months later, former principal secretary to the chief minister, M Sivashankar, a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was also arrested. He was reinstated in January after a 17-month suspension.
Swapna’s latest argument is that the entire blame was put on her and she was made the victim, even though they all knew about the “back deals and largesse received from them”. He also complained that he threatened his life several times.