Southern Slice | How a Golden ‘Swapna’ Unraveled a Web of Deception in God’s Own Country

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From being the main suspect in a politically stimulating Kerala gold smuggling scam, spending a year in judicial custody to working for a Kerala-based NGO to release tribal welfare on bail, Swapna Suresh has made another twist in this saga.

She made the startling allegations of receiving a death threat from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Swapna, in her anticipatory bail application filed in the Kerala High Court, alleged that on 8 June, a man named Shaji Kiran, allegedly close to Vijayan and Kodieri Balakrishnan, was sent to threaten her and her co-accused Sarith Nair.

The Swabna Police complaint states that she was asked to surrender before the PM and that she made allegations against CM at the instigation of the RSS and BJP. She alleged that Shaggy said that if she did not comply, a series of cases would be brought against her and against Sarith Nair, and that they would “never see the light of day in their lives again”.

This is not the first time that Swapna has attempted to use the media to claim that it has become a “scapegoat”. Her media statements claiming relentless attempts to harass her only show that she has become a political pawn, used by parties to target each other “on the pretext of exposing corrupt practices”.

After her release from judicial custody in November 2021, Swabna was reported to have secured a job as the NGO’s director of women’s empowerment and corporate social responsibility, but claimed that her critics targeted her at every point and sought to “leave her alone”.

For a state like Kerala where people love and invest heavily in their gold, it would be interesting to note that on average Rs 10,000 crore gold is smuggled annually according to customs officials. They attribute this to vulnerabilities in the system.

It is interesting how this infamous gold smuggling case was discovered at a time when Kerala was under lockdown while fighting the first wave of Covid-19. The smuggling racket had deep international connections and deeper connections to the accused who worked in the CMO and customs department, including M Sivasankar, a senior IAS officer in Kerala and then Secretary of Pinarayi Vijayan.

Gold was “smuggled into God’s Land” through diplomatic channels. This was revealed when on July 5, 2020, customs officials found baggage containing 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore. It was smuggled as a shipment camouflaged as “diplomatic baggage”.

The “diplomatic” baggage was full of dry fruits, electronic items, and several packages of food and bathroom fixtures that had arrived from Dubai. When the route of the document was investigated, officials found that the baggage was supposed to be handed over to Rashid Khamis Ali Al Mesiqari Al Ashmiya, Acting Consul General at the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.

After further investigation, B. s. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE consulate and the man who was to receive the baggage on Ashima’s behalf. Sarith was quick to leave Swabna who was also a former UAE consulate employee but later worked in the IT department in Kerala.

The plot deepened as Sivasankar’s name was revealed by Swapna and Sarith, claiming that he had abused his power and in his official capacity had made three to four requests to the Customs Department to clear such “private baggage” in the past. Swabna told investigators that Vijayan’s office and Director of Military Operations were well aware of smuggling of gold and electronic items using diplomatic channels and Sivasankar was also aware.

Sivasankar in his autobiography titled Aswathamavu: Verum Oru Aana Swapna allegedly gifted him an iPhone and fell into his company in the process. Swapna described her relationship with Sivasankar as “strong” and claimed that she “exchanged so many feelings and so many things not just an iPhone”.

Here the case became more interesting. Sources close to the investigation said that it was revealed that on six previous occasions, Jamal Hussain Al Zaabi, the former Consul General of the United Arab Emirates, smuggled gold to Kerala for himself. Investigating agencies also suspect that another employee of the UAE consulate has smuggled gold into Kerala using billiard sticks.

A customs investigation revealed gold smuggling through diplomatic channels 18 times between November 2019 and March 4, 2020. It also revealed that the former Emirati attache Al-Ashmiah was in dire need of money to complete the construction of a house in Ras Al Khaimah. , after the contractor in charge of the construction ran away.

Even then Consul General Al Zaabi was building a house in Dubai and was making some major investments in Germany where he also offered to partner with Swapna.

Swapna informed the authorities that she had shown Sivasankar to smuggle electronic gadgets, gold and even cosmetics. So when it came time to receive commissions, she was called with the symbol – “the consul eats mangoes”.

In the latest allegations, Swapna claims that in 2016 she worked as an executive secretary to the Consul General of the United Arab Emirates. Sivasankar meets her for the first time and tells her that CM Vijayan had forgotten to carry a bag during his trip to Dubai. When we checked the bag that was brought to our consulate, we realized that it contained a coin. I said this in court,” Swapna claims as part of her new announcement.

While the scam continues to haunt the Pinarayi Vijayan government, its twists and turns continue to entice readers.

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