Foreign currency smuggling case | Customs to question Vinodhini Balakrishnan

Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate has asked Vinodhini Balakrishnan, wife of former CPI(M) State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, to appear before it on March 10 in connection with the probe into the foreign currency smuggling case involving officials of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.

The agency will question her based on the inference that she was using one of the expensive mobile phones handed over by Santhosh Eapen, Managing Director of Unitac Builders to Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the high-profile diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case, as bribe.

He had earlier filed a statement before the Kerala High Court that five expensive phones were given along with 4.8 crore as commission to bag the UAE consulate’s contract to construct 140 dwellings in Thrissur via the government’s Life Mission programme to provide free housing for the poor. The UAE Red Crescent had offered to underwrite the project through the country’s diplomatic mission in Thiruvananthapuram.

The Customs Preventive Commissionerate had arrested Mr. Eapen on February 16 in the case related to the smuggling of dollars’ worth 1.30 crore whole stating that he had information that the money he gave as commission for obtaining the contract of the Life Mission projects was illegally converted into foreign exchange and smuggled abroad.

The central agency is learnt to have found that Ms. Vinodhini Balakrishnan was using one of the five mobile phones handed over by Mr. Santhosh Eapen to Ms. Swapna Suresh. The investigating officials have come across evidence showing that the phone was in possession of Ms. Vinodhini Balakrishnan even though it was not used after the gold smuggling case hit the headlines.

Ms. Swapna Suresh had handed over one of the expensive phones to M. Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who was arrested in the money laundering and diplomatic baggage gold smuggling cases. He was released on bail in February.

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