Thiruvananthapuram: The Customs, as part of its probe into the sensational Kerala gold smuggling case, on Monday questioned the driver and owner of the vehicle which transported a baggage consignment from the Air Cargo complex to the UAE Consulate here on March 4.
Both of them denied having any knowledge of the contents of the baggage.
Apart from the Customs, the ED and the NIA are also conducting a parallel probe and it has now come to light that there was a gang involved in smuggling of gold in the baggage that ostensibly contained the Holy Quran and 17,000 kilograms of dates bound for the UAE Consulate.
In the dock in the case is Kerala Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel who has been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate and the NIA and is in all likelihood to be called in by the Customs as well.
It all began with the Customs which busted the gold smuggling case, arresting P.S. Sarith, a former employee attached to the UAE Consulate on July 5, and since then there have been numerous arrests, including of Swapna Suresh, a high-profile woman who was also a former employee of the UAE Consulate and who later moved to an organisation attached to the state Information Technology department.
Jaleel said he knew Swapna Suresh and it was after the Consulate officials asked him if he could help them to distribute the Quran and the dates, that he decided to do so.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has strongly defended Jaleel and has given him a clean chit, stating that he has done no wrong and there is no question of him resigning, a demand that has been put forward by the opposition Congress and the BJP which have launched a massive protest here.
Also batting for Jaleel was state CPI secretary Kanam Rajendran who said no Kerala minister has ever resigned just because a probe agency had questioned them.
“Now it appears that with the Assembly election to be held in May next year, this case will be in the limelight till then and perhaps that is why the investigation is dragging on,” said Rajendran.