The Customs department has reportedly sought legal advice ahead of questioning Kerala Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan in connection with the dollar smuggling case.
Earlier, the Customs had summoned Speaker’s additional personal secretary, K Ayyappan, to appear before the agency but he did not appear. The Assembly secretary then sent a letter to the Customs saying it has to take the permission of the Speaker before summoning Assembly staff, because like law-makers, they also enjoy certain privileges.
The Speaker has defended himself and argued that the legislature secretariat has not blocked investigation into the smuggling case but it wanted all rules to be followed.
“The legislature secretariat has reminded the agency about the house rules. Staff of the assembly also enjoys certain privileges under Rule 165,” he said.
After the gold smuggling case surfaced, the Speaker was accused of close relationship with the main accused Swapna Suresh. He later admitted that he knew her as an employee of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate and attended some functions on her invitation.
However, the Congress and BJP leaders allege that it was more than an ‘official relationship’ and that Sreeramakrishnan had travelled with Swapna Suresh several times to Gulf countries.
They also allege the accused smuggled US dollars to the Gulf using Sreeramakrishnan’s green channel access. They also alleged that a major portion of the smuggled US dollar was commission obtained from various projects. The Speaker has denied these allegations and said he was ready for any probe.
On 5 July this year, 30 kilograms of gold worth ₹15 crore was seized by the Customs at Thiruvananthapuram on a diplomatic bag that was meant to be delivered to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
M Sivasankar, the principal secretary to CM, was suspended and removed from the post after preliminary inquiry confirmed that he had links with Swapna Suresh, one of the accused in NIA probe.