Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who is representing the Kerala Government in the gold smuggling case, is getting paid Rs 15.5 lakh every time he appears for the government in the case. The Enforcement Directorate filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court earlier this week, requesting that the trial in the gold smuggling case be moved from Thiruvananthapuram to Bengaluru.
According to the reports, Sibal represented the state government at the Supreme Court on October 10 after the petition filed by the ED was considered. After that, state Law Secretary V Hari then issued an order to transfer Rs 15.5 lakh to Sibal. Furthermore, the order instructed the advocate general to take legal action to grant the fees. Meanwhile, the court will hear ED’s plea again on November 3.
The Assistant Director of the ED Kochi Zone petitioned the Supreme Court to have the gold smuggling case transferred to a court outside of Kerala. The ED stated that if the case is tried in Kerala, sabotage might very well occur by influencing the witnesses. The defendants in the case are Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair, Sivasankar, and Sarith. Meanwhile, M Sivasankar had petitioned the Supreme Court in opposition to the ED’s request to transfer the case outside of Kerala. Sivashankar had also asked the court to hear him out before making a decision.
The Kerala Gold Smuggling Case
On July 5, 2020, customs authorities at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport seized gold weighing more than 30 kg and worth around Rs 15 crore. This gold was hidden in diplomatic luggage and air freighted to the UAE embassy. Customs officers took action after receiving evidence that the luggage was part of a smuggling network attempting to misappropriate the name of a diplomat with diplomatic immunity.
Swapna Suresh is the lead defendant in this case. A private company hired Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate, to work on a project for the Kerala Information Technology Department, which is overseen by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. M Sivasankar, the CM’s principal secretary, was in charge of this department previously.
Notably, Swapna Suresh had already raised severe charges against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and three cabinet members in connection with the gold smuggling issue. Suresh additionally stated to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in October 2020 that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan met with the Consul General of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) many times in 2017.
Interestingly, Sibal was paid Rs 22 lakh per hearing by the Jharkhand government earlier to appear on behalf of the state in a PIL alleging that the Chief Minister, his close associates, and others had parked their unaccounted money in various shell companies. The petitioner also had demanded a CBI inquiry into the matter which the state government had been opposing, hence, it engaged Kapil Sibal to argue on behalf of the state.