india

CB gives clean chit to Vinodini Kodiyeri in mobile phone scandal

The Crime Branch (CB) has reportedly given a clean chit to Vinodini Kodiyeri, wife of CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in the so-called “mobile phone scandal”.

Ms. Vinodini had come under a cloud after the Customs (Preventive) in Kochi issued a summons recently to question her purportedly on the charge of accepting an expensive cell phone as a gift from the UAE gold smuggling case accused and COFEPOSA detainee Swapna Suresh in 2019.

At the time, Swapna was the executive secretary to the UAE consul general and a familiar go-between in the foreign mission’s interaction with the State officialdom and the political leadership. The link had grown stronger during the State visit of the Sharjah sultan in 2017.

The broad outline of the Customs enquiry was that a private builder had handed over six costly phones to Swapna for nudging a multi-crore UAE Red Crescent contract to construct modern housing for low-income families in Thrissur in his direction.

The Customs suspected the devices were part of a more significant kickback, a chunk of which the beneficiaries had allegedly smuggled to Dubai as foreign currency with the possible help of consulate officials.

In October last, Mr. Balakrishnan, the then State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], had stirred controversy by accusing Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala of accepting one of the phones.

However, matters took a turn against the CPI(M), with the Customs issuing a summons to Ms. Vinodini. Congress and Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) used the development to lampoon the CPI(M) leadership. Mr. Chennithala demanded an apology.

Subsequently, Ms. Vinodini moved the CB stating that anonymous persons had attempted to trap her in an ongoing Customs enquiry. The CBI concluded recently that Ms. Vinodini had purchased the phone legally. It identified the vendor, checked the IMEI number of the device, and verified its usage history.

The CB’s reprieve for Ms. Vinodini came when State-Central relations were strained over the multiple enquiries by Central agencies into the gold smuggling case that appeared to target the CPI(M) leadership.

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