KOCHI: Already in the eye of a storm over his questionable role in the gold smuggling and reverse hawala cases, it has come out in the open that Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan had wanted to start a branch of Oman-based Middle East College, in which he allegedly has stakes, in Sharjah.Besides, he had requested the Sharjah ruler to provide land free of cost to construct the college building, according to key accused Swapna Suresh’s deposition to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) which got leaked to the media on Tuesday.
In another damning revelation, Sarith P S, another accused, stated that the speaker had given him a bag containing around ten bundles of currency notes for handing over to the UAE consul-general.
The contents of the depositions were revealed to the High Court as part of ED’s petition opposing the state Crime Branch’s probe against its officials. The petition seeks a CBI inquiry into the Crime Branch’s action of registering a case accusing the agency’s officials of forcing Swapna to give a statement implicating the chief minister in the two cases when she was lodged in the Women’s Jail in Thiruvananthapuram.
According to her deposition before the ED deputy director at the jail on December 15, 2020, Sreeramakrishnan had told her that he had an investment in Middle East College. The ED also unearthed Swapna’s WhatsApp messages to CM’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar in this regard.
According to Swapna, Lafeer, an NRI from Ponnani, Malappuram, is the owner of Middle East College in Oman. She was introduced to Lafeer and Kiran, the dean of the college, by Sreeramakrishnan and Sivasankar. Sreeramakrishnan, however, denied the allegations.
Speaker asked Swapna to arrange meet with Sharjah ruler: ED
The speaker wanted to start a branch of the college in Sharjah and he had requested the Sharjah ruler for land for the same. Sreeramakrishnan, Sivasankar, Kiran and Lafeer asked her to relocate to Sharjah and head their business development wing in the Middle East. “As instructed by Sivasankar, I visited the college premises in April 2018 to meet Khalid, an Omani national who was one of the directors of the college, to discuss the way forward. At that time, Sivasankar also came to Oman directly from France and he accompanied me during the meeting with Khalid,” Swapna deposed.
When the ED asked her how she came to know that Sreeramakrishnan had requested the Sharjah ruler to grand land for constructing the college, Swapna replied that the speaker had requested her to arrange a meet with him when he visited Thiruvananthapuram. “A meeting was arranged between the two at Leela Palace, Kovalam, and in that meet, the Sharjah ruler verbally agreed to provide land. Sreeramakrishnan told me that when he visited the UAE on different occasions later, he had met with some higher officials in Sharjah and followed it up with them,” stated Swapna.
Sarith, another accused in the case, also deposed against the speaker. When ED asked him whether he knew about foreign currencies being exported by any other high-profile personalities, Sarith revealed Sreeramakrishnan’s role. According to Sarith, he along with Swapna had met the speaker in a flat in Marutham Royal Wings Apartment and when they were about to return, he gave him a bag that contained bundles of money. He also directed the duo to hand over the bundles to the UAE consul-general and told them to keep the light brown colour bag in which SRK (Sree Rama Krishnan) was written with a pen as his gift.
“As we were about to return, he came with us in our car. We dropped him at his residence. After dropping Swapna and her husband, I went to the UAE consul-general’s residence at Kowdiar. As instructed, I handed over the bundles, around 10, to His Excellency,” deposed Sarith.