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HomeIndiaHow gold scam’s Swapna Suresh has emerged as Kerala's new woman villain  

How gold scam’s Swapna Suresh has emerged as Kerala’s new woman villain  

For a state still clinging onto patriarchy, the focus of Kerala's latest scandal, which threatens to derail CM Pinarayi Vijayan, is a woman once again, even though she's not the prime accused.

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Kochi: Confident trickster, smuggling lynchpin or a woman who managed to manoeuvre her way into the right place at the right time? The saga of Swapna Suresh has taken centre stage in the gold scam that has the potential to derail Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan even though she is just one among a number of key accused.

Kerala has a history of being unkind to women who have surfaced in scandals — from the prurient media coverage of what got labelled the ‘ice-cream parlour case’ in 2013, a case of sexual exploitation involving politicians but in which, inevitably, it was the women who became the focal point of the scandal, to the singular focus on Saritha Nair, an accused in the solar scam.

Swapna Suresh fits that mould, hammered and shaped by years of such reporting, with the only saving grace being that despite lurid stories doing the rounds in the gold smuggling case, none of them have broken through in the mainstream media.

The case

The gold scam hit headlines on 5 July when customs officials at the Thiruvananthapuram airport intercepted diplomatic cargo, meant for the UAE consulate office, and found 30 kg of gold worth Rs 13.5 crore that was allegedly being smuggled.

According to disclosures to the Customs Department by main accused P.S. Sarith, Swapna Suresh is allegedly the key link connecting various players in smuggling gold through the diplomatic channels using forged documents of the UAE consulate.

This includes Faisal Fareed in Dubai, his accomplice Sandeep Nair and K.T. Rameez in Malappuram, who allegedly takes over once the smuggled gold is brought out of the airport. It now transpires that the same operation had yielded between 100 kg and 150 kg of golden harvest over the past 8-9 months.

According to the NIA team probing the case, the sole beneficiaries are criminals engaged in anti-national activities.

Sarith’s claim of her role in the entire operation will no doubt be contested by Swapna as the NIA team questions Sandeep and her over the next one week.

Holding back information will prove difficult when faced with sustained questioning unless assurance comes their way, from important constituents in the racket. Any intervention on their behalf at this juncture seems highly improbable and that is why the next couple of weeks will test the staying power and mettle of Swapna as much, if not more than that of Sandeep.

Also read: Why Kerala is planning to allow its famed plantations to grow exotic fruits

The woman from Abu Dhabi

A self-made woman, Swapna apparently began helping out her father in managing some of his small-time businesses in Abu Dhabi. Her personal life took a decisive turn with an early but short-lived marriage to a Dubai-based businessman.

By the turn of the millennium, she found her way to her home district, Thiruvananthapuram, where she spent the bulk of the next 10 years, working in a number of travel agencies.

Sleuths claim she may have picked up preliminary contacts with those engaged in carrying gold during that period.

There are contradictory reports on her educational qualification, though there is near-unanimity on one aspect — she allegedly produced a fictitious degree certificate from the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University, Lonere, Maharashtra, dated 27 October, 2011.

The degree certificate states Swapna Prabha Suresh was a regular student at the university between July 2008 and June 2011. It has her date of birth as 4 June 1981, which puts her age at the time of doing her B.Com degree course as a regular student in the 27-30 year bracket.

During this period she raised her daughter from her early marriage who is now an undergraduate student; she also has a son from her second marriage of a few years ago.

Her father Sukumaran Suresh passed away in April while her mother Prabhakumari lives in the suburbs.

Investigators claim that the fake B.Com certificate is what she allegedly submitted while joining as an executive of the HR department at Air India SATS, the ground handling wing of the government-owned airline in 2013.

In 2016, she landed a job in the UAE Consulate-General’s office in the state capital but there is no clarity on whether she used the fake degree to secure employment.

Investigators, however, say she did use the fake degree certificate to be shortlisted by the little known placement agency, Vision Technology, on behalf of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a major consultant for the Kerala government.

She was nevertheless hired as operations manager, Space Park, at the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited. It is being alleged that M. Sivasankar, principal secretary, Chief Minister’s Office and IT secretary, facilitated the posting. He has since been removed from both posts. A two-member committee prima facie had found that Sivasankar had made a “reference” to get Swapna appointed to the Space Park.

On Thursday, he suffered the ignominy of getting suspended, pending enquiry as a two-member committee led by Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta found him guilty of violating service rules. It was also found that Sivasankar had recommended the appointment of Swapna in KSITIL.

Another high flier to bite the dust for his alleged links with Swapna was Arun Balachandran, formerly Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s ‘IT fellow’ and later holding the key post under Sivasankar as Director, Marketing and Operations, High Power Digital Advisory Committee of the State government. Arun was the most visible face on and off dais during the Kochi Design Week where Swapna played unofficial hostess.

Also read: How Kerala’s tough Covid rules have made 17% of its population ‘invisible’, hurting economy

A propensity for seeking those in power

It is being said that in all of her workplaces, Swapna showed propensity to attach herself to power centres and then apportion that power to herself.

She allegedly wielded considerable power in these workplaces at the expense of those she disliked.

At Air India, she allegedly tried to frame a colleague in a false sexual harassment case — one that will now be brought back to life.

The trail of Swapna’s forged signatures and seals, which began with the fake degree certificate, has culminated in the use of letters from the UAE consulate that allowed the smuggling of gold through the diplomatic route.

Investigators are now painting a picture of a woman who was efficient at getting work done and who supposedly had an expertise in connecting with the right people and managing high-profile events.

Swapna was the event manager at the first-of-its-kind Space Technology Conclave in Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram, on 31 January and 1 February, 2020. She allegedly brought in dignitaries from the UAE and ensured the presence of a number of big players in the space vertical both from India and abroad on the same platform.

By that time, Swapna supposedly could do no wrong in the eyes of the Kerala government and was soon seen playing an equally pivotal role as the unofficial hostess of Kochi Design Week, 2019. Touted as India’s largest design festival, the summit held in Bolgatty Island, Kochi, on December 12, 13 and 14, had some of the big names from IT such as S.D. Shibulal, former CEO, Infosys, among others as speakers.

It was the second edition of Design Week and was expected to go a long way in establishing Kochi as a design hub. But another casualty of the event was Arun Balachandaran, formerly the chief minister’s IT fellow who has now been removed for alleged links to the scam.

All the while, investigators say, she allegedly never stopped donning her erstwhile UAE consulate role at will to suit her needs. She never let on where her consulate persona stopped and her IT department identity started.

A woman transformed

Swapna has been painted in varying colours in the vernacular and mainstream press — as the embodiment of confidence and poise, often interpreted as arrogance but always presentably turned out.

Now, since her arrest on 12 July, she is a woman transformed — dowdy, diminutive, and shabbily dressed.

It is quite at discordance with the immaculately attired Saritha turning out for interactions with the media, even after the solar scam broke, with many fawning over her startling claims of liaisons and exploits interspersed with the odd English word or two.

The UAE-groomed Swapna, equally proficient in English, Arabic and Malayalam, has not had any occasion to interact with the public.

So far, what has emerged is that she allegedly led two lives. One in the limelight, as a power broker, and the other in shadow, where she allegedly rubbed shoulders with those involved in gold smuggling.

Surely, with the NIA chasing the terror angle, the world of glamour and power games involving Swapna will fade away. That is, unless her call data records reveal  familiar names.

For the onlooker, she remains a hugely complex character, a criminal psychologist’s delight. But above all, she is the latest manifestation of Kerala’s lurid and disproportionate obsession with women who find themselves on the wrong end of the law.

Also read: Coronavirus crisis is India’s chance to bring health reforms stalled by British colonial rule

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  1. Keralas society thus has quite a few women who lead double lives .u a e has generally earned a reputation surprisingly for all the wrong reason .generally it is advisable to keep contemporary women out of your home unless a back ground check is done on them most of all links with mafia and criminal links .I would advise any body irrespective of religion and caste to stay away from u a e as well kindest rgds Prof Dr t m s Prasad panicker ,thazhathuveetil medical director

  2. A 10th standard, rubbing shoulders with a list resembling a who’s who of Kerala Politics and Business. A homewrecker of 2 homes. A person who traps innocent men in fake harassment cases and a gold smuggler to boot. A person who had threatened her brother with murder for asking his share of family property.This is the person ‘The Print’ is tying to justifying. They even have the nerve to call the public patriacrhic. Disgusting!!!

  3. it is a secular corruption .you,prasanth bushji.hindu n ram teestea setlevad shuld support her.needle less to say NDTV WILL JOIN LATE

  4. Don’t fall for The Print’s sorry attempts to generate sympathy for this criminal.
    Thrown the law book at this thief.

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