Sat, 30 Sep 2023

New Delhi [India], October 1 (ANI): The Supreme Court will hear on October 10 the Enforcement Directorate's plea seeking transfer of gold smuggling case from Kerala to Karnataka court.

The matter will be heard by a bench headed by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit.

The Enforcement Directorate has moved a plea earlier in the Supreme Court 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 the State of Karnataka.

In the petition preferred by the Directorate of Enforcement, the agency sought transfer of the trial on the ground that the concerned 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.

The ED said, "Respondent M Sivasankar is one of the senior-most IAS Officers in the State of Kerala who at the relevant time when the offence under section 3 of PMLA was committed was the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of the State and he wields substantial power and influence in the State of Kerala and has been actively deploying the same to thwart and frustrate the proceedings and trial under PMLA by trying to threaten the other co-accused in the matter.

In 2020, the Customs Commissionerate (Preventive), Cochin had registered against Sarith PS, 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 crores at Trivandrum International Airport which was camouflaged as diplomatic baggage to UAE Consulate which is immune to checking at 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 crores.

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.

ED submitted that Investigation under PMLA, it was revealed that the accused persons had committed the offence of Money Laundering defined under Section 3 and punishable under Section 4 of the PMLA, 2002 and therefore a Prosecution Complaint was filed before the SpecialCourt (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 M Sivasankar in the Complaint. The ED added, "M Sivasankar is a powerful Senior IAS Officer of the Kerala Cadre who, at the relevant time, was serving as the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of the State."The Trial in the case is presently ongoing before the Special Court for PMLA cases, Ernakulam in Kerala.

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 State Police at the behest of a highly influential accused is trying to subvert and derail the investigation under PMLA and important persons are being pressurized 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 pressurised and threatened to make false allegations and to make false evidence and thereby derail the ongoing investigation and trial." (ANI)

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